The quality and health of the air we breathe every day fluctuates depending on the weather, our location and many other factors. Outdoor air pollution from fossil fuels may be impacting our health, and is a primary concern for many people. However, the air inside our homes or other buildings may be just as hazardous, if not more so. A home air quality inspection can help determine the health and safety of your house, and help you take steps to make it safer.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pollutants that affect the quality of the air in your home can have drastic health consequences. Without careful inspection and treatment, indoor air pollution can cause respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer. Some pollutants like radon or carbon monoxide can slowly leak undetected until they cause health problems, which can lead to life-threatening illnesses. Poor air quality can also worsen the symptoms of asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases.
A major concern related to indoor air quality is mold growth. Mold is a fungus that thrives in warm, wet areas, making any porous surface that is routinely exposed to moisture an ideal breeding ground. Substantial mold growth inside a building can cause numerous respiratory problems for those who inhabit it. The Centers for Disease Control lists respiratory infections, asthma and bronchitis as only a few diseases commonly associated with mold exposure. There are several thousand species of mold that can cause adverse health effects, and they can have very different visual characteristics. Since mold can often grow in areas hidden from the naked eye, a mold inspection inspection can be performed to detect mold spores in the air. Once you find mold, you can take steps to remove it and prevent it from growing back by eliminating the source of moisture. Leaks from cracks or gaps in walls or ceilings are common sources for moisture that can lead to mold growth. Residual moisture from flooding can also cause mold.
One of the harder indoor air pollutants to detect is radon. According to the American Lung Association, radon is a colorless and odorless gas that can build up in a building over time. With repeated exposure, radon can cause lung cancer, and is in fact the second most common cause of this disease, responsible for as many as 21,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Radon seeps from the Earth naturally, but is more concentrated in certain areas. Radon inspections are a relatively simple process, but it can take as many as three months to record an accurate reading. Radon levels in a home should be tested once per year if possible.
What you can do
According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the quality of the air inside your home may in fact be worse than the outdoor air. Pets and old appliances can contribute to lower air quality. Poor ventilation, lack of cleaning and excessive humidity also contribute to an indoor environment that may include unhealthy air quality. Without clean, healthy air to breathe, it's harder for your body to function the way it should, and the health of you and your family may be at risk. A certified professional can conduct an inspection of your home with the express purpose of determining air quality. The NACHI pointed out a few steps you can take to improve the quality of your home's air now, regardless of its actual quality. If you think your health is being negatively impacted, you should see a doctor right away. Otherwise, take advantage of these tips to breathe easier:
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and test them twice per year. Make sure to replace their batteries once per year
- When painting or using cleaning solvents, always provide ample ventilation to circulate fresh air into your home
- Keep an eye on moisture along walls, in carpeting or in out of reach areas. Dehumidifiers can be used to reduce the amount of moisture in the air
- If you smoke, always do so outside and away from children
Using these tips, as well as regular air quality tests, you can make sure the air you're breathing inside is as safe as possible.