How Cleaning Your Indoor Air is TOP Health Priority for…
Is The Indoor Air In Your Home or Office Making You Sick?
Absolutely… indoor air is a year-round problem. This includes lots of nasty-type airborne bugs such as viruses and bacteria. More importantly, they also find their way onto your indoor surfaces, such as desktops, computer keypads, door knobs, etc.
All presenting potential health risks.
So, here’s the TOP reasons you should be concerned, and the basics on what you can do to protect you and your loved ones.
by Greg Montoya
Indoor Air Can Be up to 10x Worse Than Outdoor Air…
Growing up, we used to know when there was bad indoor air. Because, if you “could smell it” then it was bad… and you could easily identify the source.
Not so simple anymore, as lots of airborne toxics and chemicals have no noticeable odors at all… and now even the FDA agrees that certain viruses travel airborne, and they are microscopic and Odor-FREE!
Indoor air quality (IAQ) is vitally important because—this may come as a shock—people spend a lot of their time breathing. On top of that, most of these breaths happen indoors (at least 50% of your day, or 12 hours).
One of the downsides of the last 2 PLUS years of pandemic lockdowns is that more people were forced to stay indoors. Unfortunately, with limited access to outdoor activities.
So, whatever enters, is created, or lurks indoors, goes into the lungs, and oftentimes the bloodstream.
TOP Sources of Bad Indoor Air Quality
Now that you know things in your indoor air might be bad, let’s identify a few of the major sources. Also, causes of indoor air pollution.
Viruses & Bacteria
These can enter into your indoor environment and remain airborne, or attach themselves to surfaces. Usually introduced by people in your home, or in a business location. You can infect your respiratory tract, through airborne inhalation, or surface contact.
This is a catch-all phrase for a mix of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. They often are small enough to be inhaled.
Particulate matter comes from hundreds of different sources including dust, ashes, smoke, pollen, construction, and combustion. PM2.5 (that is, particles smaller than 2.5 microns) are considered particularly dangerous… they exacerbate asthma and heart disease, and can decrease lung function.
Allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander often occur in the form of particulate matter (though their sizes vary greatly)…
Even when they aren’t small enough to cause long term health problems. No one wants a runny nose from inhaling them!
Mold sends out spores which can exacerbate respiratory conditions. If things get too humid, you may even see mold growing in the dark corners of the bathroom or kitchen.
Human beings expel this gas from their lungs constantly. Poor ventilation can lead to unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide indoors. In high enough concentrations, carbon dioxide can impair brain cognition and increase anxiety.
Carbon Monoxide & Other Combustion Gases
When you burn fuel (whether it be wood, gas, oil, or kerosene) many gases are produced as a byproduct. Carbon Monoxide, being the killer it is, gets all the press.
However, other gases such as nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide may be produced as well; all are unhealthy at high levels. Nitrogen dioxide is a cause of asthma in children.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Basically, VOCs are carbon-based gases that generally smell funny and aren’t particularly healthy to inhale. They tend to bleed into the air (“offgas”) from paints, carpets, pesticides, furniture, craft materials. Pretty much anything that was made in a factory.
What are the Symptoms of Bad Indoor Air Quality
IMMEDIATE EFFECTS: Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or repeated exposures to a pollutant:
- Irritation of eyes, nose & throat
- Symptoms of some diseases are aggravated or worsened (e.g., asthma)
- Sensitivity to biological or chemical pollutants
LONG TERM EFFECTS: Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred. Also, only after long or repeated periods of exposure.
- Respiratory diseases
- Heart disease
That’s why It’s prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home… even if symptoms are not yet noticeable.
How did Indoor Air Quality become a serious problem?
People Spend More Time Indoors
We spend 90% of our lives indoors, according to the EPA. If you live in a colder climate, you will be breathing indoor pollutants in the winter even more than you did in the summer. Which was already quite a lot!
Cold and Flu Season Becoming Year-round
Speaking of the flu, the increased spread of respiratory illnesses during the winter is another reason to be aware of indoor air quality. Human beings shed a lot of viruses into the air.
For instance, one sampling of 1400 tourists in NYC found that one out of fourteen were shedding respiratory viruses. If people out-and-about on their summer vacation (and thus presumably feeling okay) shed this many viruses, it is a safe assumption that the situation is even worse in the colder months.
Heating/AC System Hassles
Your heating and AC systems can reduce your internal air quality. Wood fires are cozy, but they increase the particulate matter both indoors and outdoors… as a reminder, PM2.5 irritates the lungs and can cause bronchitis. Over time, particulate matter can worsen asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease.
Most Homes are Built to be TOO Airtight
With all these dangers from winter heating systems, a seemingly obvious solution would be to make buildings more energy efficient. After all, more energy efficiency means less fuel used means better air quality, right? Well, not quite.
Air exchange is the process by which a building vents indoor air and brings in outdoor air. This occurs intentionally through vents, fans, and HVAC systems. Unintentionally, through cracks in windows, doors, and joints. This latter method is called infiltration. Making a building more energy efficient usually involves reducing infiltration.
However, if this infiltration is not replaced with additional intentional air exchanges, anything which gets into the building’s air has a good chance of staying there. This includes cigar smoke to sneezes. Thus, hazardous air quality could be the unintentional result of energy efficiency.
BASIC Solutions – What are Some Solutions to Bad Indoor Air Quality
According to the EPA, there are three strategies for improving internal air quality in winter: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners (filters & purifiers).
1. Source Control
The simplest way to improve internal air quality is to reduce contaminants at their source…
Source control is obvious; however not always easy.
2. Improve Ventilation
Source control is of limited use especially when you can’t remove the source. And sometimes you just have to paint your walls (or your nails).
That’s why there’s ventilation…
The simplest way to ventilate is to open the windows. If you live in a warmer climate (or an old building with an overly-aggressive radiator), this won’t be a problem. However, this isn’t practical year-round for most.
3. Air Cleaners
Air Filters: You may require a supplement to ventilation and source control.
This is where air filters come in. Air filters can take the form of portable units, or they may be built into an existing HVAC system. The downside with air filters is that they only filter out larger particles… but do nothing to remove or neutralize smaller partilces, like gases, viruses, bacteria, or odors. Plus, only a small amount of air in the room ever reaches the air filter. Especially where the filter is more than 3-4 feet away from the particle source.
Air Purifiers – Passive & Active: The problem with traditional HEPA air filters is twofold:
First, they only remove certain types of contaminants. HEPA is great for particulate matter but not so great for gases, viruses, or mold. Carbon filters are effective at removing odors and certain gases… but nothing else.
The second problem with HEPA filters is that they are passive. That is, they wait for the contaminants to be drawn through their mechanism… and the greater the distance away from the filter, the less likely the pollution will be drawn into the filter for cleaning.
The solution to this problem is Active air purifiers… for example, Radiant Catalytic Ionization (RCI) also known as ActivePure.
RCI is an active form of air purification that actually goes out into the indoor air space for treatment.
Active air purifiers create hydroxyls from water vapor, distributing them throughout a space. These hydroxyls actively break apart viruses, bacteria, mold spores, and volatile organic compounds. In fact, RCI/ActivePure’s own technology has been proven to reduce 99.9% of many pathogens in minutes… and not just in the air, but on surfaces, too!.
When it comes to purifying the air and sanitizing surfaces indoors, nothing compares to this active technology.
A Few Final Words About Indoor Air
With as much time as human beings spend indoors, we ought to be doing all we can to ensure that those indoors are healthy.
However, indoor air can become riddled with contaminants from cooking, heating, renovating, or just breathing.
Proper source control, ventilation, and air purification can go a long way towards making our homes and businesses as healthy as they are cozy.
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