With pandemic measures keeping us at home for most of the winter, folks in New York City and Long Island have been spending more time indoors than ever before. And while the comforts of home and the convenience of a remote office are undeniable, staying home all the time comes with a few unforeseen problems, as well. One of those is the negative effect that poor indoor air quality (IAQ) can have on our health.
You see, most of us have poorer IAQ than we realize. The culprit? Volatile organic compounds, more commonly known as VOCs, are primarily to blame. However, mold and dust are also common indoor air pollutants.
So, here’s what you need to know about indoor air pollution in your home and how you can defend against it!
Volatile Organic Compounds
VOCs are toxic vapors that circulate through your indoor air as a result of chemical off-gassing. Chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and certain plasticizers are released by a wide variety of manufactured goods that are found in most homes, offices, and commercial spaces.
Popular products that contain high levels of VOCs are:
- Artificially scented candles, air fresheners, and perfumes
- Household cleaning products
- Composite wood furniture, flooring, and cabinets
- Gas cooking appliances
- Wood stoves
- Fabric sofas, rugs, curtains, etc.
- Paints and varnishes
- And many more
Unfortunately, VOCs are known to irritate our respiratory systems, eyes, and skin. They may also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Long-term exposure at high concentrations may increase your risk of developing cancer and damaging your kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.
Mold growth occurs wherever water meets an organic material. For example, if water leaks from your roof into your attic, thus soaking your insulation and wood framing, then mold growth is sure to follow. Or, if you have poor ventilation in your bathroom, the excess humidity could cause a moisture buildup that results in mold growth on wooden cabinets, window frames, and ceiling tiles.
Some people don’t feel physical symptoms after being exposed to mold. However, many others are sensitive or allergic to mold and will experience symptoms like sneezing, coughing, wheezing, nasal congestion, eye irritation, and headaches.
We all know that dust is an unavoidable part of life. It floats through the air and gradually collects on surfaces, so it necessitates frequent cleaning. However, even if you’re the most fastidious cleaner, dust can collect in places that you can’t see or reach, like your heating equipment, vents, and ductwork. Unfortunately, when dust gathers in those places, it will continue to circulate through your indoor air.
Like mold, some people do not feel the negative effects of excessive dust accumulation. Most people, though, will at least experience nasal congestion, coughing, or sneezing after inhaling too much dust.
How to Get Better Air Quality
Here are MoldXpertsNY’s tips for fighting back against indoor air pollution and improving your IAQ:
- Find a way to ventilate your home. Opening up your windows once a day, even just for 5 to 10 minutes, will make a dramatic difference. Fresh air will be able to circulate while polluted air escapes. This is an especially important point for homeowners with high-efficiency windows that have airtight seals and don’t let anything in or out.
- Have your heating and/or cooling system serviced regularly. Having it professionally maintained and cleaned once a year will significantly reduce the amount of mold and dust that would otherwise accumulate inside the unit.
- Get a professional IAQ test. If you’ve been experiencing any of the physical symptoms described above, call MoldXpertsNY for an indoor air quality test. We’ll come to your home or workplace, collect air samples, and test for VOCs and mold. If your property has high levels of VOCs or mold, we’ll give you personalized recommendations on how to eradicate them from your home.
We hope this helps you understand the importance of indoor air quality as it pertains to your health. It’s a particularly pressing issue right now as we’re in the midst of a pandemic that is known to target our respiratory systems most often. Stay healthy and safe, and call MoldXpertsNY if you need any help!