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Air Quality in the Home

Indoor air quality can be worse than most people believe, but there are things you can do about it. First, identifying the source with an air quality test will assist the homeowner in developing an effective plan to mitigate the problem.

Signs A Home May Have Quality Indoor Air

  • unusual and noticeable odors

  • stale or stuffy air

  • an apparent lack of air movement

  • dirty or faulty central heating or air-conditioning equipment

  • damaged flue pipes and chimneys

  • unvented combustion air sources for fossil-fuel appliances

  • excessive humidity

  • the presence of molds and mildew

  • adverse health reaction after remodeling, weatherizing, bringing in new furniture, using household and hobby products, and moving into a new home

  • feeling noticeably healthier outside

Investigate Common Causes of Air Quality Problems

Undesirable indoor air quality can come from various sources. At least some of the following contaminants can be found in almost any home:

  • moisture and biological pollutants, such as molds, mildew, dust mites, animal dander, and cockroaches

  • high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation, and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners

  • combustion products, including carbon monoxide, from unvented fossil-fuel space heaters, unvented gas stoves and ovens, and back-drafting from furnaces and water heaters

  • formaldehyde from durable-press draperies and other textiles, particleboard products, such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives

  • radon, which is a radioactive gas from the soil and rock beneath and around the home's foundation, groundwater wells, and some building materials;

  • household products and furnishings, such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and fabric additives used in carpeting and furniture, which can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

  • asbestos, which is found in most homes more than 20 years old.

  • lead from lead-based paint dust, which is created when removing paint by sanding, scraping, and burning

  • particulates from dust and pollen, fireplaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, and unvented gas space heaters

  • tobacco smoke, which produces particulates, combustion products, and formaldehyde

Improving indoor air quality in your home is prudent, even if symptoms are not evident. While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. People also react very differently to exposure to indoor air pollutants. Further research is needed to understand better which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occur from the higher concentrations over short periods.

Indoor air contaminants can be a source of health problems. Hiring a trained home inspector in air quality to perform your next home inspection can help identify potential causes and remedies.

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