Indoor air pollution is a hazard affecting many homeowners, and it can result from numerous contaminants that contribute to a less healthy home environment. People who spend longer periods at home are most at risk if high levels of pollutants are present, making it important for individuals to take steps to eliminate those pollutants when possible. This is especially true for susceptible groups such as the elderly, children, and individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular health issues.
The following are some of the common types of pollutants that may develop in people’s homes.
A couple of different pests that may contribute to indoor air pollution at home include cockroaches and house dust mites. Cockroach body parts, droppings, and saliva can all trigger asthma symptoms or allergic reactions. Additionally, house dust mites can gather in dust, and their droppings can accumulate in furniture to cause allergic reactions and asthma symptoms. House dust mites tend to thrive in more humid home environments of 70-80% humidity, along with temperatures of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are hundreds of types of fungi that can affect people both indoors and outdoors, including certain types of mold. Toxic mold has the ability to cause immune responses like asthma and allergic reactions, along with toxic effects and infectious diseases. Over time with long-term exposure, mold can cause serious upper respiratory symptoms, along with serious health issues in the form of direct lung damage.
In many households, pets can also contribute to air pollution in a number of ways. Pets’ dead skin flakes, hair, saliva, urine, and feces can all trigger asthma and allergy symptoms. Specifically, warm-blooded pets are normally the culprit for these symptoms, including dogs, cats, rodents, and birds. While one of the best ways to prevent these symptoms is to maintain a pet-free home, there are ways to make the home livable for both susceptible individuals and pets. For example, homeowners can maintain a consistently clean home while reducing pet exposure when sleeping, keeping pets off of furniture and carpeted areas, and keeping pets outdoors more frequently.
However, children who grow up with pets in their early years are less likely to develop sensitivities later in life, making early exposure beneficial for young children in many cases.
Tobacco and Secondhand Smoke
One potential chemical pollutant that can cause a variety of symptoms is smoke, which could include either tobacco smoke or other types of secondhand smoke. In addition to triggering asthma and allergy symptoms, environmental tobacco smoke, i.e. secondhand smoke, can cause myriad health problems. It can also cause cancer over time, among other potential health issues.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is another chemical pollutant that is one of the leading causes of poisoning deaths in the U.S. CO is odorless and colorless, making it nearly impossible to detect without the right detection equipment, and low levels can cause chest pain and fatigue in certain individuals. Having carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke detectors can help protect against this potential issue.
Properly inspecting a new home and maintaining the home can help safeguard against any of these pollutants and maintain a healthy home.