Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is defined as "the nature of air that affects the health and well being of occupants. More simply, indoor air quality is the impact interior contaminants have on the air we breath indoors." It's easy to imagine what good and bad indoor air quality can be. Depending on ones living conditions, occupations and home amenities, there is an obvious difference between air that is clean and air that is not. But what are the contaminants that cause the air we breath indoors to be considered poor? The answer to this question is that indoor air pollution can be caused by numerous things, all of which have an impact on how we live from day to day. From biological substances such as pollen, fungi, dust mites, and germs to gaseous materials like household cleaners, pet odors, and cigarette smoke, the air that we breath indoors is absolutely packed with particles that hinder the quality of our air.

The most common contributor to poor indoor air quality is dust. Dust is made from many different types of materials and comes in both large and small sizes. Common household dust is normally compiled of skin flakes, textile fibers, plant pollen, human and animal hairs, dirt, and soil. Generally, any buildup of dark grey or white particles can be considered as dust. Large dust particles are heavy and tend to land on the floor or furniture. They are normally twenty microns in size or larger. Over time, these particles can build up and cause allergy attacks. Small dust particles are much finer, measuring in at twenty microns or less in size. These smaller dust particles create more of a problem because you can't see them and they usually "live" in the air. This causes a greater risk to those who have chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and emphysema because the particles are constantly being inhaled.

Another common respiratory irritant is pet dander. Dogs, cats, and birds all make great pets, but their dander can build up in our homes and cause unwanted allergy attacks or increase symptoms for those with a chronic respiratory disease. Contrary to popular belief, dog and cat hair are not considered to be pet dander although their fur can act as a catalyst. Pet dander is made up of shed skin flakes, saliva, odors, and other materials that pets can track in from outside. Pet hair draws in dust, pollen, mold, and more to create a buildup of allergens. These allergens, as well as pet dander, can be reduced by introducing filtered air from outdoors or by using a HEPA filter to cut allergens right out of the air.

Mold and bacteria can also play a major role in impairing your indoor air quality. These two biological nuisances are commonly present in both indoor and outdoor environments, so if the inside of a home is free from contamination, mold and bacteria can still be brought in from outside. They also commonly cause diseases in healthy individuals as well as those who suffer from respiratory conditions. Bacteria ranges in size, measuring from one to ten microns. Mold particles or spores range anywhere between five to fifteen microns. These irritants thrive in environments with a lot of moisture and can easily become airborne. Luckily, mold and bacteria can be removed from the air using a normal HEPA filter. However, to completely eradicate the risk of allergy attacks or illness the source of moisture must be eliminated so these particles do not have a chance to spread throughout the air.

Gaseous lung irritants can be anything from household cleaning supplies, building materials, smoke, and even odors from cooking. These gases and fumes enter the air via the "out-gassing" of items in our home. They can come from our furniture, carpets, paint, caulking, and more. Newly remodeled or redecorated homes are very susceptible to poor indoor air quality due to all of the building materials, chemicals, and dust particles that become airborne while work is being done. These particles and fumes spread around the house wreaking havoc on our lungs. The residue left by cleaning products, fumes from stovetops, and cigarette smoke also collect in the air. The long term effects of these irritants can be extremely harmful for those who are chemically sensitive or suffer from a chronic respiratory disease. By adding an activated carbon filter to work in conjunction with a HEPA filter, the risk of experiencing these long term effects can be greatly reduced. Activated carbon filters also work well as an odor remover to keep indoor air smelling fresh and clean.

Most newer homes are being designed to limit the amount of air that can travel in or out. They are built with poor ventilation systems and have numerous sources of indoor air pollution. These "leak-free" homes allow chemicals, allergens, and other lung irritants to build up over time and stay inside the home. Without adequate ventilation and filtration, indoor air can become stagnant. In the summer, when temperatures and humidity levels are high, this stagnant air can cause even more of a hazard to our lungs as well as a great deal of discomfort. Adding an air cleaner to your home is wise choice to help reduce or prevent poor indoor air quality.




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