Indoor Air Quality During Winter – Insights

Indoor air quality is frequently far lower than outdoor air. The Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) reports that the rate of indoor air pollutants may be two to five times those of outdoor emissions. Given that most Americans spend an estimated 90 percent of their time indoors, indoor air quality has a major impact on our daily lives. Indoor air contaminants are one of the main allergy and asthma causes, too. Checkout A-1 Certified Environmental Services, LLC.

Why Winter makes air quality worse indoors

Homes are designed to be energy- (and therefore cost-) effective by holding heat in during the winter hours and holding heat out during the summer. Winter weather prompts homeowners to tightly seal off any insulating cracks that might allow cold drafts into the home. This, in turn, also seals off the home from any fresh air and increases home concentrations of allergens as well as pollutants.

Popular contaminants in the Household

The next step in ensuring that your family is protected from pollution in the household is knowing what the pollutants are, so you can know how to deal with them. Here is a list of the most allergens and pollutants which affect the quality of the indoor air.

Mold and mildew-when windows are tightly closed against cold air, steam from the bathroom and kitchen and other types of moisture can build up in the house. Mold and mildew reproduce through airborne spores and are easily inhaled.

Pet dander-Pet dander is one of the most annoying and difficult-to-remove allergens, since it is very light and very small. Concentrations indoors are particularly high during winter, when pets and people spend more time indoors.

Dust mites-because more time is spent indoors during the winter, the concentration of dust mite food-shed cells of human skin-is increasing, as do the populations of dust mites. Dust mites, including household surfaces, upholstered furniture, draperies, carpets and particularly bedding, are present wherever there is dust.

Pollen-there are winter-blooming plants whose pollen can be tracked indoors, though less of a problem in the winter. Additionally, weather variations can cause plants to flower earlier than normal.

Biological pollutants-the home also contains molds, pollen, dust mites and animal dander, other germs, viruses , and bacteria.

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), or second-hand smoke, is also a major pollutant to indoor air.

Formaldehyde is one of the main volatile organic compounds ( VOCs) and is often found in carpets, upholstery, particle board, and plywood paneling in adhesives or other bonding agents.

Many other volatile organic compounds ( VOCs) are used in cleaning products, air fresheners, beauty products, laundry products, and more. Another cause of VOCs is off-gassing of VOCs from household products (such as dry-cleaned drapes or other clothing, or particle board furniture or cabinets).

Poor Indoor Air Quality effects

After just one exposure, immediate effects of poor indoor air quality can appear and include headaches, dizziness , fatigue, and itchy eyes, nose , and throat. Exposure to indoor noise can also worsen the asthma and chemical sensitivities. Chronic sensitivity, after repeated exposures, can also build up.

Although it remains unclear which rates or amounts of exposure are needed to cause serious health effects from indoor air pollution, long-term effects of indoor air pollution include respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer.

Improving air quality indoors

The EPA recommends three basic strategies to improve the quality of the indoor air: source control, improvements in ventilation and air cleaners or purifiers.

Improving the quality of indoor air by source regulation requires eliminating the emission sources. For example, gaseous emissions such as those from a poorly maintained stove can be modified to minimize their emissions; asbestos can be sealed or enclosed. Source regulation is also a more cost-conscious way of remedying poor air quality than ventilation, as increased ventilation will increase energy costs significantly.