Top five causes of indoor air pollution (and why you should care)
Tim Robinson, Airtopia's Head of Science, gives us his views on the top five causes of indoor air pollution.
1. Indoor combustion sources: Gas stoves, gas heaters, wood burners, open fires, tobacco smoke (sources of combustion gases plus fine and ultra-fine particulates).
The gases and particulates that come from various combustion sources (things like carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide) can, at high concentrations, cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, disorientation, fatigue in healthy individuals, and increased risks of respiratory problems.
Smaller particles such as PM10, PM2.5 (fine particles) and ultra-fine particles are produced by both outdoor and indoor sources. Vehicle emissions are a significant outdoor source of fine and ultra-fine particles whereas indoor sources may include gas cookers and gas heaters. These particles are of particular concern because they can get deep into the lungs and beyond, resulting in cardiovascular disease, COPD, bronchitis and asthma.
2. Condensation, damp and water damage (plumbing leaks, flood damage): resulting in mould growth.
That musty smell from damp and mould is basically from MVOCs in the air. Mould spores, mould fragments and mycotoxins are the components of mould that can irritate mucus membranes - giving you a stuffy or streaming nose, sore throat and chesty coughs.
3. Excessive use of VOC emitting products and materials: air fresheners, cleaning products etc. (VOCs and Formaldehyde).
Health effects from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can include irritation of the eyes, throat, nose and skin. Nausea, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue are also known symptoms of exposure to high levels of VOCs.
4. Indoor sources of allergens: Pet dander, dust mite allergens, pollen (from outdoor sources)
Allergens such as pet dander, dust mite excrement and pollen are significant aggravators of respiratory conditions such as asthma.
5. Building and lifestyle sources of particulates (non-combustion related)
Suspended Particle Matter (SPM) refers to particles that are greater than 10 micrometres in size, which may originate from either lifestyle or building related sources in indoor air. Common lifestyle associated sources of SPM include skin cells, dander and textile and paper fibre. Building associated sources of SPM include surface corrosion from ceilings, floors and walls and insulation.
What's the one thing you can do to combat or improve these five indoor air quality challenges?
Tim says, 'Ventilation! The single most important thing you can do is get fresh air into your home on a regular basis. For city dwellers this isn't always possible, but there are certain times of day (or night) that will be quieter, with less traffic fumes, and many properties will have a window that doesn't face a busy road. Make it a habit to open your windows for fifteen minutes every morning and you will be alleviating a lot of the build-up of toxins in your home.'
Find out more about the health implications of poor indoor air quality here, and check out Airtopia's screening service to understand even more about the hidden dangers in your home.