There’s a killer in your house you can’t see…
If you’re at home now and you take a deep breath… unfortunately you may have just invited one of the EPA’s top four health threats straight into your lungs!
Yep, I’m talking about the air you’re breathing. Indoor air quality is two to five times worse than outside air — and in some cases it can be 100 times more polluted!
The World Health Organization credits indoor air pollutants with directly causing 2.7% of the world’s diseases. In the United States, indoor air pollution is linked to increased rates of allergies, asthma and respiratory problems in people of all ages – but especially among children and senior citizens.
The American Lung Association agrees, noting cases of pediatric asthma have jumped over 72 percent. Again, poor air quality is the culprit.
Are You Making Indoor Air Pollution WORSE?
Even if you work hard to keep a clean house, the air inside could still be hazardous to your health. In fact, your efforts at good housekeeping could be making it worse!
Cleaning products, air fresheners and even beauty products frequently emit toxic compounds. Not to mention the adhesives in your carpets, the insulation in your attic and materials used inside the walls of your home. And home improvements like super sealing for energy savings can trap dangerous chemicals inside with you and your family.
A home air quality test can help you determine how bad things are in your home. High-quality air purifiers can remove some of the worst indoor air pollutants. But first, here’s a look at some of the most common dangerous indoor air pollutants.
The 4 Most Dangerous Indoor Air Pollutants
You probably know formaldehyde is a chemical used to preserve dead bodies. But it’s also used to make numerous household products – and it’s considered by the EPA to be one of the worst indoor air pollutants.
It’s used to treat pressed wood products like particle board, plywood paneling and cabinet drawers. It’s found in household adhesives, fabrics that have been permanently pressed and as a preservative in paints. Smoking indoors, or using poorly ventilated gas stoves or kerosene heaters, will also fill your home with formaldehyde.
The threat from built up formaldehyde is significant. That’s because it doesn’t just preserve dead bodies — it can also put you on a fast track to an early grave. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer, heart problems and lung problems. And it doesn’t take long to have an effect, either.
In one study of healthy nonsmokers without allergies, exposure to formaldehyde significantly reduced lung function within 55 minutes. Participants complained of nose and throat irritation, difficulty breathing, and eye irritation, even though they were only exposed to a miniscule amount of formaldehyde in the lab for less than an hour.
Remember, this is one threat not confined to the lab. Formaldehyde may be ruining your health already, but you may never know in time without a home air quality test.
Radon is the next silent killer lurking in many homes. It’s the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers – more than second-hand smoke – responsible for 21,000 cancer deaths in America every year. But again, you’ll never notice this threat without an air quality test.
Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless highly radioactive gas. In the open it’s easily dispersed by wind into the open air. But when it seeps out of building materials made from stone or enters your home through cracks in your home’s foundation it can quickly build to deadly levels – even faster in today’s well-insulated homes.
Since radon is a heavy gas it tends to build up in basements and near the floor. Something to be aware of when mounting radon detectors.
Over 150 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year in America. Early warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning — dizziness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and disorientation — should be taken seriously. It’s especially important to watch for these signals when you start spending more time indoors in cold weather — carbon monoxide detectors aren’t perfect, and there’s no reason to let carbon monoxide claim your life.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that usually enters the home from car exhaust, gas appliances or improperly vented wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Improperly installed heating or cooling systems can also introduce carbon monoxide into your home. Smokers should be aware that smoking indoors also adds to carbon monoxide concentrations.
Air purifiers that circulate household air and strip out exhaust fumes or second-hand smoke can help prevent carbon monoxide from building up in your home. As indoor air pollutants go, carbon monoxide can be cleared out quickly and easily with good ventilation and prevention tools.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are an emerging group of indoor air pollutants. They are carbon-based chemicals that evaporate at room temperature, breaking down or “off gassing” over time. Some, like acetone, have a strong and distinct odor, while others can’t be smelled but are equally toxic when inhaled.
There are thousands of VOCs in household products ranging from hair sprays and perfumes to cleaners and glues. Some of the most common VOCs include acetone, benzene, ethylene glycol, toluene and xylene.
Make no mistake about it — just because VOCs are in your household and personal care products does not make them safe. I’m sure you have the common sense not to eat moth balls or drink nail polish remover, but many people don’t open windows when they’re using bathroom cleaners or think twice about plugging in “air fresheners.”
Exposure to VOCs causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, and increased asthma and allergy symptoms in the short-term. Over time, VOCs have been linked to increased cancer rates, liver damage, kidney damage and harm to the nervous system.
Conduct an air quality test for VOCs and you might be appalled at what you find left behind in your household air from hairspray, spray cleaners and perfumes.
What To Do Now
We’ve only scratched the surface with the most common dangerous indoor air pollutants. There’s also mold, mildew, pollen, pet dander, parasites and a thousand other invisible air pollutants that may be floating around the air inside your home.
Your first step should be to conduct a comprehensive air quality test to see what hazards you are dealing with in your home. Then you can address ventilation and contamination issues.
Another effective step for many indoor air pollutants is to use a quality air purifier. Choose True-HEPA air purifiers rated to clean the amount of space you are using it for.
Cleaning your household air of indoor air pollutants and keeping it fresh for your family can have a dramatic positive effect on your health. It can help eliminate “mysterious” ailments and might just save your life.
American Lung Association (ALA). Indoor Air Quality. 2012.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). 2012 Jul 3.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Introduction to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): Formaldehyde. 2012 Jun 20.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Volatile Organic Compounds. 2012 Jul 9.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Health Risks — Radon. 2012 Jun 26.
Green DJ, et al. Acute response to 3.0 ppm formaldehyde in exercising healthy nonsmokers and asthmatics. American Review of Respiratory Diseases. 1987 Jun;135(6):1261-6.
Minnesota State Department of Health. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in Your Home. Minnesota Department of Health. 2012 Aug 1.
U.S. Fire Administration. Exposing an invisible killer: The dangers of Carbon Monoxide. FEMA. 2012 Jan 11.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Formaldehyde. Toxicology Data Network. 2012 Apr 7.
World Health Organization. Indoor Air Pollution. 2012.[ois skin="LTBP Newsletter Optin (ZL)"]