Because many homes are built or remodeled without regard to the factors that assure fresh and healthy indoor air, research has shown that the quality of indoor air can actually be worse than that of outdoor air. Additionally, homes may contain furnishings, appliances and products that negatively affect indoor air quality and your family’s health.
Signs of indoor air quality problems include:
- Unusual and noticeable odors
- Stale or stuffy air
- Noticeable lack of air movement
- Dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment
- Damaged flue pipes or chimneys
- Unvented combustion air sources for fossil fuel appliances
- Excessive humidity
- Presence of molds and mildew
- Health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, using new furniture, using household and hobby products, or moving into a new home
- Feeling noticeably healthier outside
Common Sources of Air Quality Problems
Poor indoor air can arise from many sources, and the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:
- Moisture and biological pollutants such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander and cockroaches from high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners.
- Combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back-drafting from furnaces and water heaters.
- Formaldehyde from durable press draperies and other textiles, particle board products such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives.
- Radon, a radioactive gas from soil and rock beneath and around the home’s foundation, groundwater wells and some building materials.
- Household products and furnishings such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture which can release volatile organic compounds (VOC).
- Asbestos found in most homes more than 20 years old. Sources include deteriorating, damaged or disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material and floor tiles.
- Lead from lead-based paint dust created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning.
- Particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters and unvented gas space heaters.
- Tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products and formaldehyde.
For ways to improve air quality in YOUR home (and explore room-by-room remedies for common indoor air quality problems) read CSU Extension’s Improving Air Quality in Your Home.