We all spend a large amount of our time indoors. Due to this, it’s important to consider the quality of the air that we are regularly inhaling in our homes.
The quality of the air inside your home can directly impact your health. Below we’ll discuss the likely sources of air pollutants inside your home, as well as the potential affects they can have on the members of your household.
How can Poor Air Quality Affect your Health?
If your home’s air quality is not good, you could be exposing yourself to a range of negative health effects. These can range from mild issues such as tiredness and headaches, to much more severe problems such as aggravated asthma and allergy irritation.
There are a multitude of different airborne substances inside every Australian home. Most of these substances aren’t much cause for worry. Whether or not an air pollutant can cause health issues will depend on:
- the type of airborne pollutant
- the amount of air pollutant present in your home
- the rate at which it is released from its source
- the level of ventilation available in your home to release the pollutant
Potentially Hazardous Air Substances
There are a lot of different airborne substances in any given home. The table below showcases common indoor air pollutants found in an Australian home, as well as their likely source and potential negative health impacts.
Depending on the age of your home, you could also be unknowingly exposed to some other air pollutants that could be troublesome to your health, including:
Due to its strength and impressive resistance to acid and heat, asbestos was frequently used in the construction industry. While it is no longer authorised for building usage, asbestos can still be found in older Australian homes or buildings.
Products that contain asbestos, such as textured paints, cement sheets, roofing sheets, and vinyl floor tiles, were rarely labelled and therefore are difficult to identify. If your home was constructed before the mid 1980s, it could contain some of these elements.
Typically, construction products that contain asbestos are not a risk to the health of your household. However, disturbed asbestos may release dust or fibres into the air that could then be inhaled and cause issues.
If you do suspect that asbestos-containing products are impacting your home’s air quality, contact a professional immediately.
Like asbestos, lead can be found in many older household building products. These products include old roof flashing, paint, electrical cabling, plastic pipes, and glazed ceramic materials. Inhalation of lead fumes is a health concern.
Lead exposure may arise during home renovations, particularly when stripping down old paint. It’s important to take care during renovation activities to protect your health. Avoid burning, sanding or any form of abrasive action when revamping lead painted materials.
Combustion products in your home include the gases, smoke and ash produced from gas appliances, smoking, car exhaust, and burning wood, coal or kerosene. These particles are very small and can leave or enter a home with ease.
These combustion particles travel deep into the lungs when they are inhaled. Exposure to these products can have a severe impact on your health and, in some extreme cases, can even cause death.
There are several key tips to maintaining healthy air quality in your home when you have combustion products present, including:
- Ensure you have flues, exhaust fans, a range hood and chimney installed where possible to vent combustion products outside
- Keep ventilation paths clean to allow for proper air release outside
- Regularly service gas appliances to ensure they are operating safely
- Allow plenty of fresh air from outside into your home
- Don’t run your car engine longer than necessary when in your garage
- Don’t use camp stoves or portable barbeques inside
- Never use a broken or damaged gas appliance
Assessing the Health of your Household
Before rushing to conclusions about your home’s airflow, it’s important to realistically consider if your household is being exposed to these pollutants. There are several patterns and clues you can look out for that indicate poor air quality. Consider the following:
- Do you have health problems that arise at the same time each year?
- Are your health issues triggered after certain activities, like cleaning or dusting?
- Does a change in your home environment lead to a change in your health?
- Do your health problems improve when your family leaves home for an extended period of time?
How to Improve the Air Quality in your Home
According to the Australian Government, there are four key steps to improve the air quality in your home. These include:
If you do suspect that your indoor air quality is a problem, you should first aim to identify the air pollutant at fault. You can then eliminate the toxins from the air through better home design choices and product selections.
A good AC system can really help here. Air conditioners can improve your air quality by trapping airborne contaminants, stopping them from being distributed around your home. Depending on the air filter, your AC can stop such pollutants as dust, bacteria, mould spores and more from entering your home.
Your air ducts can’t provide effective air cleaning benefits if they are clogged with dust and debris. To ensure you air conditioner is properly filtering clean air for your home, be sure to book a regular duct cleaning service with your local HVAC professional.
Proper ventilation is essential in keeping the air you breathe clear of too much indoor air pollution. If you don’t allow enough fresh air to enter your home, pollutants can gather to alarming levels.
To prevent this, ensure you regularly open windows and doors throughout your home to allow fresh air inside. Electrical ceiling fans can help to disperse fresh air evenly around your home.
If you can identify certain materials that are a main cause for concern, it’s important to keep them apart from the members of your household. This can be done using sealers or air barriers such as coatings.
A closed garage, for example, should be tightly sealed off from the rest of the house. This will prevent your car’s noxious combustion products from seeping into the rest of your house.
Indoor plants are one of the best natural ways to clean the air in your home. They can absorb toxins from the air inside your house and provide additional oxygen.
The top plants for improving the indoor air your breathe include devil’s ivy, bamboo palm, peace lilies and chrysanthemums. These types of natural air purifiers can help to get rid of toxins like carbon dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde and xylene.