Indoor Air Quality and Your Health
April 1, 2023
At Pisgah Valley we’re fortunate to be located within the natural surroundings of the mountain land with pasture on both sides of the campus, cows grazing, calves wrestling and fresh air. In fact in the late 19th and 20th centuries, Asheville was touted as “the great sanitorium of our eastern country” and people flocked here from all over the South in search for fresh- air treatment. There may be no other time in the modern century than during the COVID pandemic that fresh air was sought after by many and good indoor air quality became a top priority for society.
“Indoor air pollutants are estimated to cause thousands of cancer deaths and hundreds of thousands of respiratory health problems each year” according to the World Health Organization(WHO). On average, most people spend about 90% of their time indoors and the air quality within the walls surrounding those people is proving to be more dangerous than the pollutants outside. Overtime, this could lead to poor quality of life. Read on to find out what may be floating around in your air.
Indoor Air Pollutants
First of all, no matter the type of dwelling (apartment, house or condo) you live in, it’s made with industrial materials. Some examples of contaminants are formaldehyde released from wood products, dust mites, off gasses such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) found in paint, carbon monoxide from appliances, and radon. These contaminants, if not controlled and taken into consideration during building and remodeling, can cause major health problems for people and their pets which ultimately causes…you guessed it! Disruption and less than optimal indoor air and life quality. Not to mention, humans have the greatest impact on and contribution of toxins to our indoor environment because we are simply living in these spaces. The use of products such as air fresheners, chemical cleaners and habits such as smoking or burning candles decrease the quality of indoor air within the living space. Even cooking gives off gasses that can be detrimental to indoor air quality.
Assessing Your Own Home’s Air Quality
Considering these variables when assessing the quality of your own home’s air:
- Do you live near a highly urbanized area or city with high pollution?
- Do you or the other occupants of the home get sick often especially respiratory type illnesses?
- Has your home been recently renovated therefore exposed to contaminants from building materials and other outdoor allergens?
- What is the possibility of radon?
- Has the home ever had problems with mold or moisture control?
- Do you have an attached garage?
The best way to get an accurate account of the air quality in your home is to consult with a professional or use a service such as the Green Gauge from Green Built Alliance in Asheville. There are also test kits available online or at home improvement stores for measuring contaminants such as radon, mold, and VOC’s.
Minimizing Off Gassing and VOC’s in the Air
Change air filters throughout the home on a regular basis. Make sure to buy the best air filters possible by looking at the MERV rating as these pick up more particles especially teeny, tiny particles that cheaper filters will not pick up.
If the outdoor air quality is good then open the windows for a few hours to get some fresh air in. Do not do this during high allergy season, during fog, cold temperatures or smoky days.
Use house plants. Plants offer beauty, a touch of nature indoors and filters the air at a low cost. What a perfect combination!
Consider upgrading exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. There are a number of great products offered in the building industry that provide this component which functions to improve indoor air quality. Look into using energy efficient ventilation fans that are silent and continuously ventilating with no sound or disruptions.
By making the choice to perform minor upgrades around the home with energy efficient products, introducing house plants in the design, using low VOC materials and maybe even inviting a green building professional for an assessment you can minimize contaminants floating in the air. Mindfully designed and constructed homes can make your home greener resulting in better air quality for your health AND life quality.