Health - Home Air Quality

Home Air Quality!

What are VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)?

Source: EPA.gov

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Where can they commonly found?

  • paints, paint strippers and other solvents
  • wood preservatives
  • aerosol sprays
  • cleansers and disinfectants
  • moth repellents and air fresheners
  • stored fuels and automotive products
  • hobby supplies
  • dry-cleaned clothing
  • pesticide
  • building materials and furnishings
  • office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper
  • graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions.

Do we need to improve the air quality in our home?


Source: EPA.gov
  • 70% of lives in our homes (probably more now with COVID)
  • Polon, dust, smoke, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) can be found in the home and reduce air quality
  • Primary causes of indoor air problems: smoke, flooring, cleaning products, personal care products, excess moisture, pesticides
  • VOCs are up to ten times higher indoors than outdoor. Paints, varnishes and wax all contain organic solvents, as do many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing and hobby products. 
  • Most residential forced air-heating systems and air-conditioning systems do not bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are relied upon to bring outdoor air into the home. Advanced designs for new homes are starting to add a mechanical feature that brings outdoor air into the home through the HVAC system. Some of these designs include energy efficient heat recovery ventilators to mitigate the cost of cooling and heating this air during the summer and winter.

Source: NY Times
  • Indoor air pollution has been linked to a wide variety of adverse health effects, including headaches, respiratory problems, frequent colds, and sore throats, chronic cough, skin rashes, eye irritation, lethargy, dizziness and memory lapses.
  • Long-term effects may include an increased risk of cancer. Though children, the elderly and those with chronic ailments like asthma, allergies and heart and lung diseases seem especially vulnerable, symptoms may also occur in otherwise normal, healthy persons
  • The pollution problem is most serious in homes tightly sealed to keep out the winter cold (or heat). In a typical ''leaky'' house, all the air is exchanged with fresh outdoor air about once an hour, but a well-sealed house may take four to 10 times longer to completely replace the indoor air. This allows an enormous buildup of potentially harmful substances in the air.
  • A Harvard study showed that children living in homes with gas stoves had a significant reduction in lung function. A British study revealed an increase in colds and bronchitis among children whose homes had gas ovens. Nitrogen dioxide has been implicated in longterm respiratory problems, and possibly heart disease and cancer.
  • Gas ranges should be fitted with a hood that is vented to the outside, and the vent should be turned on whenever a burner is lighted or the oven in use.


Improving Home Air Quality 

Source: EPA.gov

  • Natural ventilation from windows and doors when weather permits
  • Reduce and remove pollutants, (ex. cooking, cleaning, smoke)
  • Plants may help but the evidence is inconclusive 
  • To filter particles, choose a portable air cleaner that has a clean air delivery rate (CADR) that is large enough for the size of the room or area in which you will use it. The higher the CADR, the more particles the air cleaner can filter and the larger the area it can serve.
  • Look for HEPA filter in air purifier
  • Look for HEPA filter in vacuum otherwise the vacuum could be making it worse by stirring up the pollutants and putting them back into the air
  • To filter gases, choose a portable air cleaner with an activated carbon filter or other filter designed to remove gases. 
  • Avoid portable air cleaners and furnace/HVAC filters that intentionally produce ozone
  • Use a Merv 13 filter for the HVAC
  • Use a doormat and remove shoes at the door

Source: health.harvard.edu

  • Vacuuming the carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Opting for hard-surface flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting may also cut down on allergens in the home
  • Invest in an ionic air purifier
  • Let fresh air in

Conclusion:

Will a portable air filter help improve home air quality?

Yes. Most portable air cleaners and furnace/HVAC filters can filter particles from the air. Some can filter the small particles of greatest health concern (PM2.5). There are also air cleaners and filters that can filter both particles and gases. The longer the air cleaner runs, the more air it filters. Note that it is always important to reduce or remove the sources of indoor air pollutants and to ventilate with clean outdoor air. Filtration does not replace the need to control pollutants and ventilate. - epa.gov 

Can I test the air in my house?

Yes, an indoor air quality monitor can be purchased. 

Resources:



Air filters increase test scores:

Best Air Purifier Review and why it’s needed:


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