Indoor Air Quality 101

ECOS 04/17/2024

Now that spring has sprung, many of us of will be spending more time outdoors, relishing the sunshine, breathing fresh air and hopefully stopping to smell the roses. The fresh air is much needed when you consider the fact that Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. It might seem shocking, but think about it: 33% of your time is sleeping (or should be!), another 33% for work and add 10-15% for eating, bathroom, etc and that’s about 80% right there.

But here’s the real kicker, indoor air levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels. These pollutants can have serious ramifications, particularly for young children and the elderly.

Today we're sharing a little indoor air quality 101. We’ve listed below the most common pollutants found indoors, and how to get rid of them. Luckily, it doesn’t take much to immediately clean up your indoor air and it can be very affordable too!

Asthma Triggers: It's a bit of a catch-all, but this category primarily includes mold, dust mites and pet dander. Molds are really something to watch out for as they produce spores that float in the air, land on damp surfaces, and grow. Inhaling or touching molds can cause hay fever-type symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes. Molds, dust mites, pet dander and secondhand smoke can all trigger asthma attacks.

  • What to do: Get rid of the mold - figure out the source of it, clean it and prevent it from coming back. For dust mites and pet dander, clean often and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Have household members remove their shoes before coming inside and use entry mats to catch dust and dander before it gets inside.

Combustion Pollutants: These are gasses or particles that come from fuel burning materials such as space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces. The types and amounts of pollutants produced depends on the appliance, how well it is installed, maintained and vented and the kind of fuel it uses. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are two common combustion pollutants. Carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and even death. Nitrogen dioxide causes eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath and an increased risk of respiratory infection.

  • What to do: Keep gas appliances properly adjusted and well ventilated, use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters and open flues when fireplaces are in use. Do not idle the car inside garage and invest in a carbon monoxide detector.

Radon: A radioactive gas that is formed in the soil. Radon can enter indoors through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall.

  • What to do: First, test your home. The price of the test range, but the average is around $20. If your home is above 4 pCi/L, you will need to take steps to lower this.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): VOCs are frequently discussed around here at ECOS as they are found in many conventional paints (but not our zero VOC paints*!). They are also in cleaning supplies, personal care products, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, office equipment, moth repellents, air  fresheners, and dry-cleaned clothing. Volatile organic compounds can cause a wide variety of health impacts. Many irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and cause headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some of them can cause cancer.

*Conforms to CDPH 01350 (VOC emissions test taken at 11, 12, & 14 days for classroom and office use). Learn more about VOCs and our commitment to healthier paints here.

  • What to do: Ridding your home of VOCs mainly comes down to choosing safer products. Look for products that contain no-or-low VOCs, and for household cleaners, consider making your own! To reduce toxic VOCs even further, you can use ECOS Air Pure Paints that actually absorb indoor air impurities!

Protecting your indoor air quality is a big job, but remember that even if you can only tackle a few of these recommendations now, you’re still making great strides for your health!

Have any questions about indoor air quality? Let us know in the comments and we'll do our best to provide an answer.   The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or recommendations. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the issues raised here.