When you’re feeling ill, your doctor might prescribe blood tests. That’s a good start to finding the underlying cause of your symptoms.
What if you could do the same thing for your house? If you’re having mysterious symptoms at home, poor Indoor air quality could be to blame. We need to breathe oxygen… not a mix of harmful fumes and traces of poisonous gasses. All the eco-friendly eating and non-toxic cleaners in the world can’t overcome unhealthy air!
Here’s why your household’s air quality could be a problem — and what you can do about it.
What’s in Your Air?
Your HVAC system’s air filter traps dust, dander, and allergens. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many indoor air pollutants are much more insidious — and resistant to traditional filtration or cleaning. Microscopic spores and bacteria can persist even if you change the filter monthly. Meanwhile, synthetic chemicals release fumes that linger in your air.
Mold spores are small enough to pass through many filters. Mold often grows inside your ducts, dispersing spores throughout your household. Some species, such as Stachybotrys, contain mycotoxins that cause serious neurological effects.
A High-Efficiency Particulate (HEPA) filter can help, but mold tends to thrive wherever there’s moisture. It’s critical to keep your home as dry as possible.
Microscopic pathogens such as Legionella love moist environments, and they’re easily airborne in droplets. Outdoors, Legionella disperses easily, so there’s less risk of infection. Indoors, we’re more likely to contract this bacteria, which contributes to fatigue, headaches, coughing, and fever. This may develop into Pontiac fever or a more serious form, Legionnaires’ disease.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Various objects, furniture, and even surfaces often release gaseous versions of their ingredients over time. Many of these qualify as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which comprise a wide variety of natural and synthetic chemicals.
Not all VOCs are directly hazardous to your health. The risk lies in what they can become. As Volatile Organic Compounds are, well, volatile, they easily react with other molecules. And that’s where things can get dangerous.
For example, VOCs may combine with atmospheric oxygen to create formaldehyde. Chronic exposure has neurological and carcinogenic effects. VOCs can also react with nitrogen oxides and produce ozone, which causes respiratory distress.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that emerges as uranium decays. Believe it or not, uranium occurs throughout the earth. So, rocks and soil gradually release radon over time.
This isn’t a problem outside. But for drafty homes or those built on or with natural stone, radon can become trapped indoors, creating a health risk. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer — and the first among non-smokers.
All these pollutants can degrade your indoor air quality and make you sick. The problem is, it’s hard to know which ones you’re dealing with, especially since they can all cause the same vague symptoms: headaches, fatigue, coughing, etc.
Testing Your Indoor Air Quality
There are now indoor air quality monitors so you can assess your risk and diagnose issues. Think of them as the beefed-up version of your carbon monoxide monitor. (You have one, right?)
Knowing which toxins and pathogens are in your household’s air can help you identify the source.
For example, a high level of mold spores could point to a humidity problem, a leak within your walls, etc. The presence of Legionella indicates standing water within your air conditioning system. Your granite countertops could be releasing radon.
I started using the uHoo indoor air quality monitor to see what was going on in my home. I live a green lifestyle, but even I was surprised to see unexpected levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and so on. It really goes to show that we have many, many hazards to mitigate. Even something as simple as cooking without the exhaust fan on led to an increase in trace gasses.
The uHoo Smart Air Monitor helped me understand my household’s air quality in real-time. It also gave me some peace of mind that my HEPA filter and diligent dehumidifying were working!
And when there were issues, I could match them to what we were feeling — a case of the sniffles, a headache, etc. — and start working on a solution.
Plus, uHoo gives you a “Virus Index” so you can see how likely it is that viruses could disperse throughout your home. For example, high humidity makes it easier for viruses to spread because pathogens usually hitchhike on water droplets. You can monitor your viral risk at any time and take steps to fix it, such as running a dehumidifier.
Improving Your Indoor Air Quality
There are so many potential sources of VOCs, mold, and other pollutants. I was already avoiding air fresheners, vaporizers, and anything that could release VOCs, phthalates, and excess moisture into the air. After using uHoo, though, I started being even more conscious of what I brought into my home.
For example, did you know that most furniture is drenched in chemicals at the factory? It’s always a good idea to let that new sofa or mattress vent in the garage for a few days. (Or better yet, buy an organic mattress.)
Also, many paints release VOCs, so keep that in mind when re-painting a room or bringing in painted furniture. If you’re the crafty sort, always use your paints, glues, and so on in a well-ventilated room — or better yet, in a garage or covered porch.
Ensuring good indoor air quality is an ongoing battle. But in my experience, uHoo gives you a defensive advantage! It shows you what issues to resolve so you can be proactive in keeping your home’s air clean and safe.
To learn more about uHoo, their Smart Air Monitor, and their Virus Index, visit their website.