But, even though you understand that air pollution is a global problem, you may not feel like it’s a personal one. Living in the suburbs or on a tree-lined street in the city might make you think that you’re safe from the ill effects of low-quality air. Unfortunately, you’re probably wrong.
The World Health Organization reports that 9 out of 10 people worldwide live in places that exceed their safety guidelines for clean air. That means that almost everyone is being exposed to unhealthy levels of pollutants.
But, what if you are in the 10% of people who live in an area with clean air? Does that mean you don’t have to worry about pollution?
Research shows that no matter where you live, indoor air is up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. And, since indoor air quality isn’t regulated like outdoor air, it’s extremely likely that the air inside your house has an unhealthy level of pollutants.
If you’re still not convinced that there are issues with your home’s air quality, there are some clear warning signs to let you know if it’s time to do something about the air your family is breathing.
Here are 7 warning signs that you have low-quality air in your home.
Cold symptoms that don’t go away
Poor indoor air quality causes many symptoms that can be mistaken for a cold or flu. These include:
- Irritated eyes, nose, and throat.
Sometimes these symptoms really are from an illness. But, if the symptoms don’t go away after a week or two, it may not be a virus that’s causing them. Pay attention to where you are when you’re feeling sick. If you find that you’re symptomatic while at home, but better while you’re at work, poor air quality may be what’s actually causing your symptoms.
Restless or insufficient sleep
Air quality affects everything about your health, including the quality and length of your sleep. In fact, one study found that people were 60 percent more likely to experience low sleep efficiency if they were in an area with high levels of air pollution.
While any pollutants can hamper your sleep, there are some that are more disruptive than others. Allergens and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are two of the worst offenders. Here’s why:
Allergens: A healthy sleep cycle consists of periods of deep breathing which can be disrupted by allergens such as ragweed, dust, pet dander, and mold.
VOCs: Breathing in these pollutants, which are emitted from many everyday household products, affects the central nervous system and can lead to respiratory problems including sleep apnea.
Aggravated allergies or asthma symptoms
While allergies or asthma can be triggered anywhere, if you find that your symptoms are worse when you’re home, there’s a strong likelihood that your indoor air quality is poor. There are many pollutants that can be aggravating your symptoms.
Pollen: As the temperatures rise and carbon dioxide levels increase, pollen counts have risen and allergy season has gotten longer and more intense. If pollen is finding its way into your home, your breathing can be severely affected.
Dust: Most household dust is a mixture of sloughed-off skin cells, hair, clothing fibers, bacteria, bits of dead bugs, soil particles, pollen, and microscopic specks of plastic. All homes have some dust in the air, but if you find that your allergy or asthma symptoms are worse at home, you may have an unhealthy level of dust.
Smoke: Smoke can greatly aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms. If you live with a smoker or use a wood stove to heat your home, your indoor air quality is definitely compromised.
Mold: You come into contact with mold spores everywhere you go…. Both indoors and outdoors. Mold spores are so small that it’s easy to unintentionally bring them into your home Aggravated allergy or asthma symptoms are often a result of increased mold spores in the air.
Many of the common odors that make up our day-to-day life are actually airborne chemicals that arise from VOCs. Some VOCs, such as formaldehyde, can cause a range of adverse health effects. Even more benign odors can lead to headaches, dizziness, or nausea. If an odor lasts a long time or keeps occurring, it also could affect your mood, anxiety, and stress levels.
Persistent odors in your home are a clear indication that it’s time to do something about your indoor air quality.
Too much or too little humidity
Ideally, your home should stay around 30 – 50% humidity. Too much humidity leaves you susceptible to mold infestations and uncomfortable sleep, while too little humidity can cause dry skin, nose bleeds, and increased vulnerability to illness. Maintaining the right humidity in your home is an important part of improving your air quality.
Mold that has taken hold in your home is a clear sign that your indoor air quality needs maintenance. While mold spores are so small that they’re easily spread, it takes the right conditions for mold to actually begin to grow. Homes with pockets of warm, damp air are particularly susceptible to mold infestations.
Mold has been linked to breathing problems, allergic reactions, and inflammation, and even psychiatric issues.
Hot and Cold Spots
If you notice different temperature pockets around your home it’s likely that your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is too small for your square footage and can’t properly handle the amount of air in your space. Clogged ducts or a poorly maintained cooling system could also be to blame.
Uneven temperatures may also be an indication of improper filtration, meaning that some areas of your home may have more pollutants than others.
What can you do about low-quality air?
Now that you know that your indoor air is problematic, what can you do about it? The first step is to identify what exactly is causing the problem. Most indoor air quality issues are related to pollutants and humidity level, both of which can be managed by air quality devices.
After you determine what is compromising your indoor air quality, it’s time to figure out which devices will be most useful in improving it.
Which air quality devices are right for you?
Humidifiers and dehumidifiers: Depending on where you live and what season it is, a humidifier or dehumidifier can help your home stay at a comfortable level of humidity.
Air purifiers: To filter out both pollutants and harmful gases, look for high-quality air purifiers that use a combination of True HEPA filters and activated carbon filters.