The quality of the air in a home (Indoor Air Quality or IAQ) is known to affect the health, comfort and wellbeing of the people who live there. Poor quality air which is usually caused by a build-up of unwanted chemicals and moisture has been linked to “Sick Building Syndrome” which has been linked to asthma, headaches, and reduced productivity.
Improved ventilation in a building helps to keep the levels of chemicals and moisture under control and ensuring that your home has good airflow is essential, but it is also important to understand what the most common pollutants in your home are, so that you can take steps to reduce their presence.
Mould problems can occur where there is a damp environment where spores can settle and grow. In a home with significant mould growth, the colonies release large numbers of tiny spores to spread around. When these are inhaled, they can inflame the airways and cause wheezing as well as aggravate allergies and chronic health problems like asthma. Some types of mould – toxic black mould – also release mycotoxins that are potentially damaging to health and can result in severe reactions.
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless toxic gas that is released by incomplete combustion of fuel and as such, can be a major problem in houses where standalone heaters, or poorly maintained boilers are present. At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can kill you before you are aware of its presence, and as such is highly dangerous. Most houses should have a detector for carbon monoxide that sounds an alarm if it is found in the air.
Radon is a radioactive gas formed by the decay of tiny amounts of uranium that occur naturally in soil. It is more common in certain areas of the country including the Pennines and Cornwall where the local geology results in higher concentrations of uranium in the soil. As the radon gas interacts with dust and other particles in your home, it can create small radioactive particles that, if inhaled, can increase the risk of lung cancer. Anyone living in an area where radon is a known problem should have a radon detector in their property and take steps to improve ventilation to prevent it building up to potentially dangerous levels.
Asbestos was commonly used as a building material in the past thanks to its heat resistance and strength, and though it is no longer used, it may still be found in older buildings and should be removed by a professional. The fibres can be inhaled into the lungs where they can become lodged and cause cell damage leading to potentially fatal conditions such as mesothelioma.
Pollen is a major problem for people who suffer from Hayfever and other related allergies. The Hayfever season in the UK runs from spring until autumn and peaks with the release of grass pollens around June and July. Pollen can get into homes through open windows and doors, as well as on clothing and in hair, however a ventilation system that filters air as it is drawn into the house can reduce the amount of pollen that is brought in and help to alleviate symptoms.
Volatile Organic Chemicals or VOCs are airborne pollutants released from cleaning products and other home items including candles and oil burners where they are used for scent. VOCs are irritants and can play havoc with your health. They cause headaches, allergic reactions and can worsen the symptoms of chronic conditions such as asthma. They are found in a wide variety of products including aerosols, dry-cleaning, hobby supplies and candles. You can reduce the amount of them that are found in the home by choosing environmentally friendly cleaning products and ensuring that areas where they are used are well ventilated with open windows, or the use of extractor fans.
Although fewer people than ever are smoking, tobacco smoke is still a problem in many homes. Second-hand smoke is the leftover smoke that escapes into the room when someone is smoking a cigarette or pipe. Tobacco smoke contains a variety of carcinogenic chemicals and can leave a nasty smell on furniture as well as staining walls and ceilings. If you smoke in the home, it is important to protect others by ensuring that rooms are well ventilated.
In many cases, knowing that you have a problem with pollution in your home is the first step to addressing it. If you live in an area which is prone to radon gas, then you should have a detector in place that will monitor levels and alert you if they become unsafe. Similarly, a carbon monoxide alarm should be in place close to your boiler or gas fire to monitor levels and warn you if they become dangerous.
In order to deal with pollutants in your home, it is important to ensure that you have good ventilation in all rooms. Simple bathroom and kitchen extractor fans will help in some areas of the property and are an effective way of reducing moisture levels that can contribute to damp and mould, but for full protection, you should consider a whole house ventilation system such as PIV (Positive Input Ventilation). These systems work with a central unit that draws fresh air into your home through filters that remove particulate matter including pollen.
The fresh air displaces stale air that is laden with chemicals or smoke particles and allows them to escape leaving you with improved air quality that is better for your health.
If you are concerned about the health risks of low-quality indoor air, then we can help. Our local ventilation specialists can arrange a free home survey to assess what problems you have and provide advice about the best solution for your needs. Contact us today to book and make a start on improving your indoor air quality.
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