What You Should Know About Indoor Air Quality

How much of your day is spent indoors? Let’s say that you get eight hours of sleep each night and you spend eight hours in the office — that’s two-thirds of your day. Once you add the time spent getting ready for the day, cooking and eating meals, doing necessary chores, and spending time with your family, you’re pushing it pretty close to 24 hours. The average American spends 87% of a 24-hour day indoors, and another 6% of the day in an enclosed vehicle. It’s important to understand how indoor air quality affects our health considering how much time we spend indoors. Here are a few things that affect indoor air quality, and what you can do to improve it.

The average American spends roughly 90% of the day indoors. It's important to understand how poor indoor air quality affects your health. Click To Tweet

What affects indoor air quality?

The air quality in your home is often much lower than the air quality outdoors, but why is that? Poor air quality isn’t the result of inadequate housekeeping, or even any one single source. It’s a combination of things producing pollutants in a contained environment.

Some common indoor air pollutants include

  • skin cells from pets and people
  • decomposed insects
  • dust mites
  • mold
  • carbon monoxide
  • radon
  • food debris
  • chemicals
  • dirt, dust, and pollen tracked into the home
  • lead
  • asbestos
  • tobacco smoke
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted over time from building materials, carpets, furniture, paints, cleaning products, and many other products.

The health effects of poor air quality

There are immediate health effects of poor indoor air quality. Some pollutants may cause eye, nose, or throat irritation. You may feel dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous, or tired. Poor indoor air quality can also trigger asthma attacks, or make asthma symptoms worse.

Long-term exposure to poor air quality can increase the risk for chronic respiratory problems, respiratory disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

What you can do to improve air quality

There are a few things that you can do to improve the air quality in your home.

Clean often:

  • Change air filters at least once every three months.
  • Vacuum two to three times a week.
  • Wash your sheets and other linens once a week or more often as needed.
  • Dust and wipe down surfaces in your home once a week.

You may have to clean more frequently if you have indoor pets, or if someone in your home has allergies.

Use an air purifier or high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, filter to help remove indoor air pollutants.

Remove your shoes to help reduce the amount of outdoor pollutants that you bring into your home.

In addition to improving the air quality in your home, you should also make a point to spend less time indoors. Go for a walk, play in the yard with your family, or do something active and enjoy your time outdoors.

Talk to your doctor if you experience frequent respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, a sore throat, respiratory congestion, nose bleeds, runny nose, or difficulty breathing. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as a pulmonologist.

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