When you think of air pollution, you may think of the pollution outside caused by fumes and exhaust from cars. However, there are also indoor pollutants. Indoor air quality is essential for your overall health, as different contaminants can have serious impacts on your health, whether your home has mold, radon, or other dangerous air pollutants. Here’s what you need to know about indoor air quality and how to perform a home air quality test.
Common Air Pollutants That Affect Indoor Air Quality
Common air pollutants that affect indoor air quality include:
- Carbon monoxide
- Air pollutants
Mold is a common fungus that is found in homes. Mold thrives in dark, damp places. This type of fungus can grow on different surfaces, including cardboard, wood and paper products, and ceiling tiles. The three most common types of mold are Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. Mold can grow in many different places, including fabric, drywall, and upholstery.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. This gas claims hundreds of lives each year and makes hundreds of thousands of people sick. Portable generators, oil- and gas-burning furnaces, and charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide.
Common air pollutants include:
- Ozone (O3)
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
- Particulate matter (PM 10 and PM 2.5)
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
These common air pollutants are referred to as criteria pollutants. These pollutants can cause respiratory issues, a variety of health conditions, property damage, and other adverse effects.
Radon is a radioactive gas that causes cancer. This radioactive gas, like carbon monoxide, is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. Frederich E. Dron discovered radon in the 1900s. This gas causes cancer in smokers and non-smokers.
How to Test for Air Pollutants
More people are spending time indoors, and their health is declining because of the pollutants in the air. Testing for air pollutants requires an indoor quality air monitor. There are a variety of indoor quality air monitors to choose from, so choosing the best air monitor can be a challenge.
When you’re looking for an indoor air quality monitor, the features you need to consider are:
- Levels of particulate matter
Increased temperatures can increase a chemical’s reaction time, which can cause multiple reactions that result in a variety of health concerns. Indoor air quality monitors keep track of the temperature in the home and alert you when drastic temperature increases occur.
Humidity in your home is a major concern because it is the perfect breeding environment for mold. Mold exposure can cause throat and eye irritation, nasal stuffiness, cough and wheezing, and other symptoms. Air quality monitors track the humidity in your home and let you know when these levels are a cause for concern.
VOCs are gases that derive from specific liquids and compounds. These gases have short-term and long-term health effects. Sources of VOCs include aerosol sprays, pesticides, cleaners and disinfectants, and a variety of other sources. Health effects caused by VOCs include nausea, loss of concentration, and kidney and liver damage. Signs of volatile organic compound exposure include:
- Allergic skin reaction
Levels of Particulate Matter
Particulate matter contains dust and allergens in the air. Everyone is exposed to dust, but in large amounts, dust can be harmful to your health. The negative health effects of dust include irritation of the throat and eyes, a variety of lung diseases, and different effects on the heart.
Air quality index (AQI) is the air quality measurement the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses to determine possible health concerns that accompany outdoor and indoor air pollution.
Symptoms of Air Pollution
here are mild and severe symptoms of air pollution. The severity of these symptoms depends on the current pollution levels, and if you have different allergies. High pollution levels can cause various symptoms, including:
- Cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses
- Stress to the heart and lungs
- Damaged respiratory system cells
Long-term exposure to air pollution can result in accelerated aging of the lungs and loss of lung capacity. Other effects of long-term air pollution exposure include decreased lung function and a shortened life span. You can also develop a variety of diseases due to extended exposure to air pollution, including:
Long-term exposure to air pollution could cause cancer. The people who are the most susceptible to severe health complications are:
- People who spend extended amounts of time outdoors
- Pregnant women
- Older adults
- Children under 14 years old
Health effects of ground-level ozone pollution include:
- Increased fatigue
- Chest pain
- Reduced resistance to infections
Symptoms of particulate matter exposure are:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Irritation of the airways
- Nonfatal heart attacks
- Chronic respiratory disease
What is an Air Quality Monitor?
An air quality monitor is a measuring device for common air pollutants. The two types of air quality monitors are ones for indoor and outdoor use. Indoor air quality monitors are sensor-based instruments that are capable of measuring levels in parts per billion (PPB).
What Do Air Quality Monitors Test?
Air quality monitors detect common air pollutants in real time. These real-time reports help you determine the culprit of the air pollution in your home so you can make the necessary changes to reduce the number of pollutants present in your home.
How Do Indoor Air Quality Monitors Work?
Air quality monitors have multiple sensors, including a sensor for carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. The carbon monoxide and oxygen sensors are electrochemical and detects all gases that can be reduced or oxidized. The only infrared sensor is the carbon dioxide sensor. These sensors absorb the particles in the air and generate a report based on the amount of pollution collected. Electrochemical sensors are more complex than IR sensors. Electrochemical sensors use:
- Sensor pins
- Current collectors
- A sense base
- Lead anode
- Top plate
- Capillary diffusion barrier
IR sensors include:
- A source
- Fixed slit
Installing an Air Quality Monitor
Before you purchase and install an air quality monitor, you need to consider the price and efficiency of the device. You need to know how much it costs to maintain the device each year, and by how much it will increase your electric expenses. You should also consider the device’s functionality. Of course, it measures the number of pollutants in the air, but you need to know about other features the device may offer. The device’s ease of use is another essential factor to consider when purchasing an air quality monitor.
How to Test for Mold in the Air
Having mold in your home can cause a variety of health risks and concerns. A lot of the time, you may not realize mold is the culprit of many of the symptoms you’re experiencing because mold symptoms are similar to many common allergy symptoms. Symptoms of mold in your home include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, irritated skin
- Sinus headaches
- Difficulty breathing
What Types of Home Mold Tests Are Best?
The best mold kits for home testing are:
- Healthful home mold 5-minute test
- MolDetect accredited 3 sample mold analysis kit
- Pro lab DIY mold test kit
- A-1 basement home instant mold test
- Home health science mold check test kit
- IH pro mold quick QMT 100 test
- Mold detective test kit
- Mold armor DIY testing mold kit
- ESP mold test DIY analysis lab and result kit
- Mold inspection network DIY testing mold 3 kit
Tips for Identifying Mold in the Home
If you have mold in your home, you may notice a musty odor, bubbling paint or wallpaper, and condensation on your walls. Other signs of mold include black spots on the wall, discoloration of walls, and water stains. Mold grows in dark, damp places, including:
- Under newspaper and cardboard
- Behind the refrigerator
- Behind the drywall
- In vents
- Under carpet
Hire an Inspector to Test for Mold
Hiring an inspector to test for mold in your home is a good idea if you suspect mold growth. There are a variety of methods you can use to clean and prevent mold growth, but it’s best to let a professional get the job done. These inspectors have innovative tools that help detect and test for mold, especially in places that are hard to reach. Before you hire a mold inspector, make sure you check their ratings and reviews. Find out as much about the inspector as possible to ensure the inspection is completed with the highest standards.
How to Test for Carbon Monoxide
If you’re not interested in purchasing a portable carbon monoxide monitor, other methods of testing your home for carbon monoxide include:
- An indoor quality air test
- HVAC combustion analysis
- Consumer-level carbon monoxide gas detector
Installing a Carbon Monoxide Alarm
To install a carbon monoxide alarm, you need to first decide on the locations for the detectors, then make sure you have the necessary tools and equipment for proper installation.
- Use a drill bit slightly smaller than the supplied wall anchors to make sure the fit is as snug as possible.
- You can use the mounting base to mark where the screws need to go on the wall or ceiling.
- Tap the screw anchors into the drilled holes using a hammer or similar item.
- Install the batteries and twist the CO alarm in place. If installed correctly, the alarm should hold in place.
- Test the alarm to ensure it’s functioning properly.
How to Test for Radon
No home is safe from radon poisoning. Like most gases, you can’t see or smell radon. Radon exposure is the second cause of lung cancer in the United States. You can purchase a DIY home testing kit for radon, or you can hire a radon inspector, then hire a professional to remove the radon from your home, if it’s needed. Your state’s radon program will help you determine what your other options are for testing.
Symptoms of Radon Poisoning
Symptoms of radon poisoning include:
- Frequent infections (pneumonia and bronchitis)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
How to use a Radon Kit
Before you use a radon test kit, make sure you can keep your home closed for at least 12 hours. This includes windows, doors, and other entries. Window fans or whole house fans should not be used during the time of the test. Use the test in the lower area of your home. This test should not be used in crawl spaces or closets.
Before you use the test, check the expiration date. Complete the datasheet, return it to the designated testing lab, and await the results.
Eliminating Radon in the Home
Reducing radon in your home requires the expertise, skills, and equipment of the professionals. Professionals perform radon mitigation, which includes:
- Sub-slab depressurization
- Sub-membrane depressurization
- HRV (heat recovery ventilator)
- Sealing sump covers
Test Your Home Air Quality Today
Air pollution in your home affects your health and everyone’s health in the home. Keeping your home clean, changing air filters, keeping live plants outdoors, and investing in an air purifier fan or air scrubber will help minimize the number of indoor air pollutants in your home. Allowing fresh air to flow through your home also reduces indoor air pollutants.