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HEALTHY HOMES: WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN TESTING INDOOR AIR QUALITY

TESTING FOR VOCs …

Despite your efforts to keep and maintain your home clean, you may still become ill due to indoor pollutants. Testing for VOCs in indoor air for the presence of contaminants and toxins is a measure to improve its quality and avoid health hazards. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors where the concentration of toxins is 2-5 times higher than outdoors. Here are important chemicals and toxins that you should look for when analyzing indoor air quality.

Radon

Radon is a harmful gas that you cannot smell or see. It is found in the soil and works its way into your homes through cracks and vents polluting the air that you inhale. Exposure to this type of gas is the second cause of lung cancer in the US and around 21,000 deaths occur each year because of radon inhalation (EPA, 2017). The gas itself is not harmful outdoors because it is diluted with open air but indoors, its concentration could increase to dangerous levels. The presence of radon should be tested before building a house or schedule an analysis if you are not sure if your home is certified.

Secondhand Smoke

Smoke from tobacco or fireplaces fed with wood can cause upper respiratory tract problems and even cancer. Tobacco combustion releases over 4,000 chemicals out of which 250 are known to be dangerous and 50 causing cancer (WHO Fact Sheet, 2017). Smoking kills over 7 million people each year in the world. Out of this figure, around 860,000 deaths are attributed to passive smoking according to the WHO. Fireplace smoke is also toxic compared to bio-ethanol fireplaces that burns clean fuel. EPA studies suggest that wood smoke contains harmful particulates and long-term exposure can cause lung infections and even premature death.

Mold Spores

High indoor humidity is one of the primary reasons for the presence of molds spores. They can trigger asthma, allergic reactions and other respiratory tract infections according to the CDC. If there is no visible sign of molds in your homes, testing can assess whether there is contamination and remediation may be recommended to improve indoor air quality.

VOC levels

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) are harmful and very dangerous to the health. The presence of these compounds in the air can produce eye, ear and nose irritations. Other side effects include headaches and nausea. At its worst, excessive and prolonged exposure to VOC can damage liver, kidneys and the central nervous system. These gases are emitted from household products and cleaners. Apart from testing for VOCs levels, you can also invest in air quality monitors for your homes to support pollution control.

Regulating the quality of indoor air through testing helps reduce allergic reactions and the onset of fatal cancers. Eliminating specific contaminants indoors can assist in improving the quality of air which is important for your overall health.

By Jackie Edwards

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