A growing body of evidence suggests that poor indoor air quality can cause serious harm. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency considers indoor air pollution one of the five greatest environmental risks to public health. To combat this epidemic effectively, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific pollutants that are most commonly found indoors in San Diego, CA.
Volatile Organic Compounds
In simple terms, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that readily become vapors or gases. These organic compounds are virtually ubiquitous in products and materials you can find in any home. Because they have a low boiling point, they’re easily released into the air by a process called off-gassing. Once they’re airborne, VOCs are potentially hazardous because they can be inhaled into your body.
Exposure to certain VOCs carries health risks that range from allergic reactions to cancer and other diseases. Some compounds can also react with gases in the air to produce secondary pollutants. The first step in controlling these pollutants is to limit the number of sources in your home. Common sources include paint, carpet, flooring, building materials, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, cosmetics, furniture, and printers. It’s impossible to avoid all of these sources, but seeking out low-VOC products whenever possible can help limit your exposure.
Indoor air quality pollutants come from a variety of places, but many can ultimately be traced back to living organisms. Biological contaminants include pollen, airborne pathogens, dander from pets and humans, pest droppings, dust mite parts, and more. Some of these are present in virtually every indoor environment, but they can become dangerous in high concentrations. Others can have effects on your health even at relatively low concentrations. They often trigger allergic reactions and irritate your eyes and airways. They may also cause breathing difficulties, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and other short-term symptoms. Over the long term, some biological pollutants can cause or exacerbate certain chronic diseases.
Managing biological contaminants starts with good housekeeping practices. Frequent cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming removes pollutants and creates a less favorable environment for pollution sources to thrive. Humidity is also a critical factor to consider. Keeping the humidity between about 30% and 60% is proven to control dust mites and other biological sources. Finally, routine HVAC maintenance and duct cleaning can prevent pollutants from spreading through your HVAC system. Keeping your air filter changed also ensures that it can continue doing its job effectively.
We’ve come a long way since humans first learned to create and control fire. Today, the combustion process efficiently powers the ovens, ranges, furnaces, and wood stoves we use to cook food and stay warm. Unfortunately, combustion produces more than just heat and light. Depending on the fuel type and the appliance being used, it can also produce a noxious mixture of gases and particulate matter. Among the most common combustion byproducts are carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, heavy metals, soot, benzo(a)pyrene, and other organic compounds. Carbon monoxide can be dangerous or fatal in high concentrations. Many other byproducts can cause short-term health effects and increase the risk of developing certain chronic illnesses.
The most important way to mitigate the risk of combustion byproducts is to ensure proper ventilation at all times. Installing a ventilation system can help keep your indoor air fresher. Additionally, scheduling expert HVAC services for your fuel-burning appliances is a critical safety measure. Efficient, well-maintained heating systems should have little to no effect on indoor air quality, but a malfunctioning system is a major concern. Without professional attention, a dirty burner, cracked heat exchanger, or blocked flue can quickly create a dangerous situation.
Understanding and controlling indoor air quality pollutants is essential to your overall well-being. To make your home as comfortable and healthy as possible, request a quote for our expert HVAC services or call us with all your air quality questions.