We often think of air pollutants as being outdoors. While that’s true, there are also plenty of common air pollutants indoors that can affect your family’s comfort, health, and even safety. It can be easy to forget or overlook these indoor irritants, so we’ve created a list of some of the most common air pollutants and their causes. If you have any of these issues in your home — we have a great idea for cleaning things up.
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
Stay Comfy's Keith Hill, technical support manager from Minnesota Air, says that particles and vapors are the two categories of pollutants that can enter your home. “Particles like dust, pet dander, pollen, mold spores, mildew, bacteria and viruses, and smoke particles from tobacco, candles, and wood burning are all common contaminants in a home,” says Keith. Vapors include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, VOCs, and radon gas.
Here are six of the most common pollutants that could be found in your home.
- Pet hair and dander. We love our pets, and they can contribute to indoor pollutants by shedding hair and skin cells. That can add to the usual dust that accumulates in any home.
- Pollen. While most of us think of pollen from trees, flowers, and plants as an outside issue, pollen can readily enter our homes on clothing, shoes, and through open windows and doors.
- Mold spores and mildew. Mold and mildew spring up readily in moist, dark places. Basements and bathrooms are the most common locations, but anywhere that has trapped moisture and little or no airflow can be a good breeding ground. Mold spores can also blow in from the outside and multiply in humid environments.
- Bacteria and viruses. These can enter your home in many ways. The most obvious way is via family or guests who have a cold or flu. But bacteria can grow in your garbage or decomposing food. And viruses can even make their way into your home on the bottom of dirty shoes! The first line of defense is to wash your hands frequently and keep household surfaces clean — especially during cold season.
- Smoke and combustion. Tobacco smoke is the most obvious here, and that’s something you’ll want to control as best you can. There are other by-products of combustion (burning fuel) that can be a health hazard. Smoke and other vapors like CO or CO2 can come from using your gas range, fireplace, or even a candle.
- Household products. Often called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), these are ingredients commonly found in household products. These include cleaning products, paints, varnishes, and even household furnishings. VOCs can enter the air as fumes and odors that can be irritants to sensitive family members, especially those with asthma or other respiratory concerns.
Keith points out that while air pollutants can be removed, it takes a good balance of ventilation, filtration, and purification to do so. He suggests that vapor pollutants can only be addressed with better ventilation. You need to remove the stale air and introduce fresh air to replace it.
“Some ventilation is required just to maintain an adequate oxygen supply, and natural ventilation – infiltration through the cracks and crevices of your home – is usually enough to meet that need,” says Keith. “We need oxygen to live, but we also need it to keep other vapors like carbon dioxide (CO2), radon, and VOCs to a minimum.”
Particle pollutants can only be remedied with filtration and purification (for the ‘living particles’ such as mold, bacteria, and viruses). One of the most effective means of purifying your home’s air is a device called an electronic air cleaner, or EAC.
An EAC is installed as part of your overall HVAC system. It filters the air by creating an electrostatic charge that captures and removes air pollutants. Because of the way it works, an EAC is able to filter out even the tiniest particles — like viruses and bacteria.
Once installed, an EAC is very easy to maintain. Some models use disposable filters that are replaced about every six months. Other models use “collector cells” that you simply wash when needed.
All in all, an EAC is one of the most efficient and cost-effective means of keeping your indoor air fresh and clean. At Stay Comfy, we recommend the Carrier Infinity Series Air Purifier as one of the very best on the market. You can find a local dealer using our convenient dealer locator.