You are what you breathe: 4 pollution sources affecting your home’s indoor air
You are what you breathe: 4 pollution sources affecting your home’s indoor air4
From powerful airborne viruses to heavy wildfire smoke to toxic train derailments, contaminants lurking in our air have been making headlines over the last several years. It’s enough to make you mask up and stay inside — but what if your indoor air quality is worse than what’s going on outside?
Believe it or not, that’s often the case. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, research shows that the air inside our homes, schools, and offices can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Understanding what affects our indoor air quality (IAQ) is more important than ever – and learning how to improve it is essential.
Indoor vs. outdoor air quality
The main driver behind poor IAQ is contaminants in the air. Any contaminants, from bacteria to cooking oil, are stuck inside the building with you. While outdoor air pollution can quickly dissipate over great distances, the air in your home will remain inside unless you give it an outlet back to the great outdoors.
4 Sources of indoor air pollution
Correcting poor indoor air quality generally comes from efficient use of your home’s ventilation system. But to improve your indoor air quality, it's important to understand what kind of indoor air pollution you’re dealing with. Let’s take a look at four of the biggest contributors to indoor air pollution – some of which may surprise you.
1. Outdoor pollutants
Indoor air quality begins with what’s in the air outside your home. Widespread wildfires in the U.S. and Canada brought this to the forefront during the busy 2023 fire season. That same year, a train derailment in Ohio raised concerns about toxic chemicals released into the surrounding air. In addition to these extreme examples, outdoor air pollution also comes from common sources such as vehicle emissions, factories, and construction.
No matter the source, smoke, ash, chemicals, and other outdoor pollutants can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues and other illnesses. With health in mind, keeping outdoor pollutants from infiltrating your home is essential.
2. Indoor pollutants
Not all air pollution begins outside. Enclosed spaces, even comfortable ones like your home, give indoor pollutants a place to collect. Particulates like pet dander and dust mites are too small to see, but move easily through the air on drafts. Likewise, household activities such as cooking, smoking indoors, or using wood-burning stoves add more particulates to the air your family is breathing in.
The Covid-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on how biological contaminants affect IAQ, as well. Bacteria and viruses are primary concerns in this category, which also includes pollen and mold. Indoor pollutants moving through the air in your home leave your family susceptible to respiratory infections, asthma, and allergies, any of which can be severe.
3. Household products
Ironically, even cleaning your house can affect your indoor air quality. Household cleaning agents, air fresheners, and pesticides can all emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that become respiratory irritants as they move through household air. Choosing low-VOC or natural alternatives to these products, and ensuring proper ventilation while using them, can help reduce their impact on your family’s health.
4. Ventilation/HVAC systems
Whether your home bakes under the Arizona sun or endures cold Minnesota winters, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) ensures your family stays comfortable inside. But your HVAC system also plays a significant role in IAQ by filtering air as it moves through your home.
With that in mind, keeping your system clean is essential. Regular maintenance, including filter changes and duct cleaning, ensures your system can effectively remove pollutants. Kitchen range hoods and exhaust fans throughout your home are part of this system, too. Running these fans regularly during cooking, bathing, and periodically throughout the day can help control humidity.
Skipping these tasks can lead to unhealthy air at home. Clogged filters can no longer remove contaminants. Dirty ducts and uncontrolled humidity create a breeding ground for mold spores — and then circulate them through your home.
You might also consider adding an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). ERVs serve as the foundation of effective, balanced home ventilation. They turn bad, stagnant air in your home into cleaner, circulated air free of harmful substances.
You’re in charge of preventing indoor air pollution
Improving your IAQ starts with understanding where indoor air pollution comes from – and some of those sources can be surprising! While viruses, mold, and smoke are obvious culprits, who knew that cuddling your dog and cooking a delicious meal can put unwanted particulates in the air?
Now that you know the common causes of indoor air pollution, you’re well on your way to improving your home’s indoor air quality. Panasonic is here to help — learn more about how Panasonic's ventilation solutions can help you create a healthier home.