According to various studies, people in North America and Europe spend 90% of their time indoors. This makes sense as indoors is usually the place where we are most protected from weather and other dangers. However, we’re subject to health concerns involved with indoor air pollution.
A lot of contaminants can get into the air in not just our homes, but other indoor spaces, such as stores and offices as well. Luckily, while you may not be able to improve the air quality in commercial buildings, you can improve your home air quality while living in the Portland area.
What Causes Indoor Air Quality Issues?
It can be very difficult for air to flow in and out of indoor spaces and get refreshed without intervention.
Therefore, if an air pollutant gets into the indoor air, it is more likely to stay in that air for a long time. The longer it stays in the air, the more likely it is that it will get in a person’s lungs and possibly trigger health concerns.
However, not all indoor spaces have the same levels of pollution. The worst home air quality is usually caused when there is poor ventilation in the home. That is, indoor air quality is worse when indoor air is not constantly replaced with outdoor air.
Specific weather conditions can also play a role in air quality. Certain contaminants can become more concentrated when the temperature and humidity levels are higher.
What Are Indoor Air Pollutants?
Indoor air pollutants are materials that get into our indoor air and are potentially dangerous to our health. However, these can exist in the outdoor air as well. What makes air pollutants more dangerous to us indoors than outdoors is the concentration.
There are a few ways to classify how hazardous pollutants are to human health.
- The concentration of the pollutant in the air
- The symptoms that a human experiences due to the pollutant
- The length of time that a human breathes in a pollutant
Some pollutants, like pollen or animal dander, should only cause allergy symptoms even at their highest concentration. Other pollutants that can potentially cause severe symptoms cause similar mild symptoms when a person is only exposed to them for a short amount of time. These milder symptoms include the following.
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Asthma symptoms in non-prone
- Worsened asthma symptoms in the prone
Once a person is exposed to dangerous pollutants for a long time, they can experience more severe symptoms. Pollutants such as carbon dioxide can cause fast and severe symptoms at high concentrations. House residents need to remove themselves from the building if the concentration of these items gets too high too quickly.
The severe symptoms potentially caused by dangerous pollutants include the following.
- Respiratory distress
- Heart disease
How concentrated indoor air pollutants become is often controlled by the rate at which sources emit the pollutant. Some sources, such as asbestos or mold, emit their pollutant constantly at a steady rate. Others, like cleaning supplies or pesticides, only emit pollutants when a person is using them.
However, without ventilation, all types of pollutants no matter the source can stay in the air for a long time.
Beyond emission rate, air pollutant sources usually fall into three different groups. These are biological, chemical, and combustion pollutants.
1. Biological Pollutants
The biological pollutants group contains all pollutant sources that are living organisms. These are usually dropped from these organisms, but in some cases, such as bacteria, the organism itself is the pollutant. You can find some examples of biological pollution sources written below.
2. Chemical Pollutants
Anything inorganic and not the result of burning is usually referred to as a chemical pollutant. Most often, these chemicals come from products that are manmade and used for constructive purposes. They are either sprayed into the air or are a part of the building’s structure.
- Cleaning products
3. Combustion Pollutants
After a certain object has been burned, it becomes a combustion pollutant. While all combusted items become a form of smoke, the different types of smoke can have different effects on the body.
- Exhaust fumes
- Carbon monoxide
How Does Outdoor Air Enter a House?
As mentioned, you can improve air quality by allowing outdoor air to enter your home. If a lot of outdoor air is allowed to enter your home, you have what’s known as a high air exchange rate. Unless the outside air of your home is also fairly polluted, you should want your air exchange rate to be as high as possible.
Outdoor air can enter your home in several ways. The first is known as infiltration. This is where the air gets in through tiny holes in your home’s structure.
- Wall, floor, and ceiling cracks
- Window and door openings
- Joints where parts of your home meet
Invasion of outdoor air through natural ventilation happens via larger openings you often make yourself.
- Opening a window
- Opening a door
There is also the mechanical ventilation method. This is where different machines push air in and out of your home. Examples of such machines include the following types:
- HVAC system
- Window-mounted fans
Improving Your Home’s Air Quality
You may or may not experience symptoms from indoor air pollutants or notice signs of them. However, remember that not all indoor air pollutants are noticeable and many symptoms can only show up later on. Therefore, it’s best to take some steps to improve air quality to make certain that you have a healthy home.
Identify Potential Pollutants in Your Home
The first thing to pay attention to is how your health seems to function in your home. Keep track of how you feel and act when you’re at home and compare it to how you feel and act when you’re outside.
Do you feel more fatigued and/or stuffy when you’re at home than when you’re outside? If so, you might want to start looking for stronger evidence that you have an indoor air pollution problem. Even if you don’t feel this way, it may still be a good idea to check your home for these issues.
There are a few ways that you can identify indoor air quality issues yourself. The first thing you can do is look at potential pollutant sources. You can use items from the source list above to create a checklist of things to check similar to the list below.
- Check if the oven is leaking gas
- Check hidden corners for mold and/or fungus
- Track frequent use of pollutant sources
There are also physical markings that pollutants leave behind in a home. Look for the following:
- Condensation on windows or walls
- Dirty HVAC equipment
- Strange odors
Along with some home tests, you may also consider hiring a professional technician to test the air for you. HVAC technicians often offer a service where they collect a sample from your home, test it, and then advise you on how you can improve air quality in your home.
Keep in mind that the charges for these services can quickly become expensive if you test for multiple pollutants. It’s best to limit these tests to the pollutants that are hardest to detect and/or most dangerous, such as radon
Actions to Improve Air Quality
You can start with some basic steps. There are several minor chores that you can do to make your home healthier.
- Clean all surfaces
- Clean your vents
- Seal any cracks
You can also increase your air exchange rate by opening your windows and doors when the weather permits. This is especially important to do when you’re painting, cleaning, or doing other activities that involve pollutants.
However, some services are best left to the experts. While there are ways to DIY many of these processes, there’s very little room for error. You can end up causing yourself far more harm, do a lot of damage, or just do an ineffective job.
- Asbestos removal
- Mold removal
- Modifying or replacing HVAC system
- Weatherizing services
Get the Best Indoor Air Quality Portland Residential Homes Have With Us
Learning about all these indoor air pollutants can be scary. However, remember that you’re not stuck with having the poorest indoor air quality Portland or any other city has. There are many methods that you can use to fight back against indoor air pollutants and protect your health.
Also, if you want some help with improving the air quality of your home, consider our services. With over 21 years of service in the Portland area, you can bet that we have the level of skill to bring your home air quality to its healthiest level. Contact us now and a trusted team member will reach out in one business day.