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My Top 10 Air Quality Concerns

air quality concerns

Many people keep track of every gram of food going into their body. Yet, the very same people are often totally unaware of what they are breathing in. They would be surprised to find out that we eat about 3 pounds of food a day… and breathe in over 30 pounds of air!

To help get the message out, I’m posting my top 10 indoor air quality concerns found in homes:

1. Mold & dampness

Mold is known to cause respiratory problems, but often dampness gets overlooked. Damp indoor environments can introduce other contaminants such as bacteria, insects, rodents, and all of their by-products.

2. Tobacco smoke

If you live in a multi-family building or share walls with others, tobacco smoke is a large concern. It is near impossible to get a perfect seal between two units. Turning an exhaust fan on in your unit may even make matters worse.

3. Formaldehyde and other VOCs

Large amounts of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, can off-gas from some engineered wood products. Other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may come from cleaners, building materials and even personal care products.

4. Allergens

For individuals with allergies, environmental allergens can make life miserable. Common indoor allergens come from dust mites, cats, dogs, mice, rats and cockroaches.

5. Carbon monoxide

CO can be deadly, so it definitely deserves a place on this list. New combustion appliances are commonly sealed and powered, but older units may be more prone to backdrafting. Make sure you have CO alarms functioning and located in all the right places.

6. Asbestos

Asbestos is a this naturally occurring and carcinogenic substance found in some building materials. Many uses of asbestos have been banned in the US, although we do not have a complete ban. Floor tiles, textured ceilings, and insulation on old pipes and air ducts are all common places to find asbestos.

7. Lead

Lead was banned from paint in 1978. Homes built at (and before) that time may have layers of old paint still containing lead. When the paint starts to chip off or lead dust is created, children are particularly at risk for exposure.

8. Radon

Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that is known to cause lung cancer. Radon is naturally occurring and comes from the ground. It finds its way into homes through openings, especially in areas with direct ground contact (e.g. basements).

9. Lack of ventilation

The trend is to build homes airtight, which is great for energy efficiency. However, air leaks provide “air exchanges” and prevent the air from getting stale. Certain indoor air pollutants can be diluted by introducing outdoor air ventilation.

10. Outdoor air pollution (particulate matter & ozone)

Although outdoor air ventilation is great at reducing some pollutants, it may increase others. Exposure to outdoor particulate matter and ozone have been implicated in both respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.

Now that you know my top 10 list of concerns, take a deep breath and consider what may now be in your lungs!

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”

3 thoughts on “My Top 10 Air Quality Concerns

    Great article! I wish more pleope realized what they were using to wash their clothes (themselves and their homes, too). I’m getting further every day in my struggle to go as natural as I can. It’s bloggers like you who inspire me to press on and keep going. I recently made my own laundry soap, although a liquid version. I hadn’t seen a powder version recipe until now. Thanks for a great post!

    Yes, ozone is a concern. There are many people researching the interactions between ozone and common VOCs in what might generally be called, “Indoor Air Chemistry”. I tried to limit myself but I could have also added infectious viruses and bacteria to the list. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are also an emerging concern.

    Thanks for your comment Bill!