Have you noticed more frequent coughing and sneezing while at home and don’t know why? If a cold is not the case, the air quality inside your home may be contaminated. Many of us think that if we dust and vacuum regularly, we are safe from particles that can cause us harm. With toxic particles being invisible to the naked eye, you can’t always spot when you have a problem. Hence, you may consider doing a home air quality test.
Here, we would like to discuss the best ways in which you can test the air quality in your home and offer some easy and basic solutions to the polluted indoor air you might be dealing with. Identifying the possible air pollutants in your house and effectively removing them is beneficial for you and your family’s health in the long run.
How to test home air quality?
Use Air Quality monitor
If you’re experiencing symptoms you suspect are related to indoor air quality, getting an air quality monitor is an inexpensive way to pinpoint the problem. By monitoring levels of indoor air pollution, you can take steps to get fresh air back into your home. Look for air quality sensors that provide the following air quality measurements:
- Humidity – to see the potential for mold growth.
- VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) – chemical pollutants as potential sources of indoor air quality problems, which come from building materials, carpeting, etc.
- Levels of particulate matter (PM 2.5) – the level of dust and other allergens present in the air.
- AQI (Air Quality Index) – A measurement of air quality to determine the risk of health problems associated with indoor pollution.
FAQ: What should an air quality monitor have?
In short, a good air quality monitor should indicate levels of humidity, temperature, VOCs, levels of particulate matter and air quality index.
Read more about air quality monitors: Top 5 Best Home Air Quality Monitor Devices
Use air purifier
Once you’ve identified potential air quality problems in your home, an air purifier may be able to address some of your concerns. Air purifiers help asthma and allergy sufferers by removing particulate matter from the air. Air purifiers clean the air with two methods: by releasing negatively charged ions, which makes pollutants stick to surrounding surfaces, and by using HEPA filters to screen and collect particulates from the air. Some air purifiers promise to do amazing things that are not facts-based, so to avoid getting scammed by fancy terminology, do some basic research before getting one.
Evaluate health issues
Once you’ve gotten a readout on your baseline air quality, you can track your own and your family’s health symptoms for a few weeks. Try to see if you can align them to a particular area or a specific time of day. For example, if you experience headaches only while at the office, your home air quality may not be the culprit. By following the symptoms you’re experiencing, you may find clues about the source of the problem. For instance, nausea and confusion are symptoms of dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the home. A scratchy throat or watery eyes are more often signs of an allergic reaction to potential pollutants.
Monitor radon levels
Radon is a colorless and odorless gas that rises naturally from the soil and enters the home through dirty floors, cracks in the basement floor and walls, and drainage systems. It is dangerous and is thought to be a major cause of lung cancer. The only way to test for radon is to purchase an appropriate radon detection kit and use it in the home.
Monitor carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a very dangerous, colorless and odorless gas that is generated from incomplete combustion of fuel in household devices, such as stoves, furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces. Carbon monoxide can get into your lungs and inhibit the transport of oxygen through the body. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide can result in death. The only way to detect the presence of carbon monoxide is to purchase a carbon monoxide detector. This works like a smoke detector, sounding an alarm when the carbon monoxide level rises.
FAQ: What is carbon monoxide and how to detect it?
This is a colorless and odorless, but very dangerous gas that obstructs the flow of oxygen in your body. You will need a carbon monoxide detector to locate it in your home.
Check for mold
Mold grows both indoors and outdoors and can float into your home via doorways, windows, and vents, or be carried indoors by clinging to clothing or shoes. Those who are sensitive to molds can experience nasal stuffiness, irritation of the throat, coughing or wheezing, or eye irritation. So, take a second to sniff for any musty air and inspect any likely places for mold to take up residence. Usually, if mold is visible there is no need for any home air quality test. It is best to look for mold in common problem areas in your home, clean up any visible signs, and remedy the conditions that led to the mold growth in the first place (like humidity).
Read more about mold and air quality: Mold and Air Quality at Home
Check dust mites
As awful as it sounds, proteins in dust mite feces cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. You can react from inhaling them or from contact with your skin. Symptoms may include watery eyes, asthma, and sneezing, but also hay fever, cough, runny nose, or sinus pain. Symptoms in infants can even manifest as infantile eczema. Other visible symptoms include frequent awakening, postnasal drip, blue-colored skin under the eyes, an itchy nose, roof of the mouth, or throat. To be certain that dust mites are the culprit, do a home air quality test by getting the most suitable test kit.
During the spring, summer and fall, weeds, grasses, and trees release tiny pollen grains into the air, so these floating pollen grains travel on people and pets and are carried inside. Even some of the tiny pollen grains that enter your nose and throat can trigger a type of respiratory allergy called hay fever. The symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, coughing, itching eyes, nose and throat, red and watery eyes etc. To test the pollen levels in your home, there are many test kits you can obtain locally, depending on the type of pollen you are looking to find.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic compounds that easily become vapors or gases. We have different chemical products in our homes, which can release organic compounds while they are being used, but surprisingly, even when they are stored. The usual suspects that contain VOCs are paints, cleaners and disinfectants, stored fuels, wood preservatives, and dry-cleaned clothing. Other products that can contain VOCs are building materials, furnishings, office equipment, and graphics and craft materials.
The potential for an organic chemical to cause health effects will depend on the toxicity of the VOC–some are very toxic, and others create no known health problems. Before getting any test kits, check for eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, loss of coordination, allergic skin reactions, memory impairment, and nausea.
Environmental tobacco smoke (or ETS) is a major air pollutant. It is also one of the most dangerous of all. As a leading cause of indoor air pollution, it not only impacts the smoker but those around them as well. The easiest way to protect yourself from this, make sure that no family member is smoking in the house or not smoking at all! This factor can be easily tested and just as easily removed.
Call professional help
If you notice indoor air quality problems, you may scurry to do a few common-sense things like duct cleaning and installing carbon monoxide detectors. But some indoor air quality problems can be more elusive and require professional help. If you’ve recently remodeled, opened up walls to repair plumbing, or discovered mold growing in your home, your indoor air quality may be impacted.
Check for the most common complaints associated with indoor air quality problems – eyes, nose or throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, fatigue. However, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever are also related to long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention and consider professional testing to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution.
FAQ: Are there solutions I can do today to clean my indoor air?
Yes, there are. Some of them are as simple as doing air ventilation, cleaning your house or getting a plant. Others include getting air purifiers installed and reducing indoor humidity.
Solutions to polluted indoor air
Today there are a number of tips you can follow to deal with polluted indoor air, so here are some of the simplest ones you can do today and improve your overall wellbeing:
- Air Ventilation. You can install an air ventilator (or several) in your home or simply open the windows at times when traffic levels are lowest.
- Air filtration. Purchase indoor air purifiers and install them in your home. These are quite effective at cleaning the stale and polluted indoor air.
- There are many NASA approved indoor plants that you can get for your home, which have proven to pick up toxic compounds from the air and give back oxygen. Read more about these plants: 15 Amazing Indoor Plants That Clean the Air
- Clean your home more frequently. Make sure to vacuum, collect dust and change your bedding at least once a week. A clean home is less likely to become an allergen-suitable environment.
- Reduce humidity. Increased humidity in the home can lead to the formation of mold. So, if you have this issue in the house, find the source and eliminate it.
There are a huge number of air pollutants present today, all casting a potential danger to our health – unfortunately, most of these can be found in our own home. There are many ways to do a home air quality test or even more ways to treat your home air, so do consider some of the ones we provided above. Making even the smallest improvement or change in your habits today may influence your overall health and wellbeing, so be mindful and smart on how you treat your home environment.
Read more from our page: Whole Home Air Purifier in 2020: The Definitive Buying Guide