During my first tabling event for Utah Moms for Clean Air a few years ago, I couldn’t help but overhear talk about indoor air pollution. From lighting wood in our fireplace to burning candles in my home during the cold, winter months, I was shocked to learn how harmful both can be to my family’s health. During Salt Lake Valley’s inversion months, it’s illegal to burn coal or wood because it adds to the already toxic air outdoors. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that it can also destroy indoor air.
As outdoor air pollution increases, we tend to assume we can escape into the safety of our homes for cleaner air. Unfortunately, indoor air pollution is not only as toxic as outdoor air, it can be worse. From wood burning stoves to household cleaners, we need to be mindful of what we release into our air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, sources of indoor air pollution include:
- combustion sources: oil, kerosene, gas, coal, wood, candles and tobacco
- building materials: carpet, wood and insulation
- household cleaning products, personal care items, paints and solvents
- central heating and cooling devices
- outdoor air pollution: smog, ozone, toxic gases such as radon and pesticides
Building and home decorating products and materials such as carpeting, can also contain contaminants. These contaminants include: mold spores, radon and volatile organics compounds (VOC’s). Many carpets and products used during the installation process contain carcinogenic materials that can stick around in the air for a long time. In addition, mold can grow from wet carpets and cause health problems. Radon and pesticides from outside can leak indoors and adhere to carpeting materials, re-releasing toxins into the indoor air.
There are a variety of household cleaners used that are extremely toxic to our health. According to the EPA, typical household cleaners such as aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants containing VOC’s pose a great threat to indoor air quality. VOC’s may “cause cancer in animals…some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.” In addition to common household cleaners, paints and other solvents also increase toxicity. The toxic effect varies depending on the type of product used and duration of use.
According to HVAC & R Research, indoor air pollution is caused by biological growth from HVAC components such as poor humidifying systems, cooling coils and drip pans. Also, poor installation of HVAC components and ventilation systems can increase VOC’s released into indoor air.
In order to improve our air quality, it’s crucial to maintain a naturally clean home. Proper ventilation, removal of toxic products such as cleaners and solvents, and installation of efficient HVAC systems that are properly maintained, along with testing for radon and natural gas leaks throughout the home make for a safer and healthier home.
Don’t you think our homes should be safe havens to raise healthy families?