Are Hidden Hazards Lurking in Your Air?

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When you think about poor air quality, your mind probably jumps to the smog and pollution found outdoors in large cities. However, what you’re breathing indoors could be even more polluted than anything you’re exposed to when you’re outside. A number of factors can contribute to the quality of the air in your home, including hazards you may not realize are present.

Cooking Chemicals

One of the major sources of indoor pollutants comes from cooking, which may come as a shock to many people who prepare meals in their homes. Acrolein is a hazardous material that comes from cooking oils and meats. This genotoxic tissue irritant was actually used during World War I as a nerve agent. Chronic exposure to this material can impact your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Acrolein is in the same family of chemicals as formaldehyde, although it’s not easy to test for in a home. When you’re preparing food for your family, make sure to use all ventilation options available to you by keeping the windows open and using the kitchen exhaust fan.

Dirty HVAC Equipment

If your HVAC system is clogged with dirt and debris, the air you breathe will contain allergens that can lead to unpleasant health symptoms such as congestion, throat and eye irritation, and coughing.

It’s important to keep up with regular HVAC maintenance, including duct cleaning and tuneups, to make sure everything is clean and working properly. A damaged component within your system could also lead to a drop in the quality of the air within your home. Make sure to keep up with regular filter changes, as well, ensuring the air flowing through your living space is clean and healthy.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds, also called VOCs, are gases emitted from certain liquids or solids. These compounds can include a variety of chemicals that cause both long-term and short-term health effects. In a confined space, the effects of VOCs can be up to 10 times higher than they would be if you were exposed to them outdoors. Some of the most common sources of VOCs include cosmetics, paints, waxes, and varnishes. In homes with elderly individuals, young children, or people who suffer from asthma or other breathing conditions, the presence of VOCs can be especially dangerous.

Certain renovation projects within your home may also increase your risk of VOC exposure. The adhesive used to glue down new carpeting contains chemicals that may cause harm to those who breathe them in over time. Even odors from your freshly dry-cleaned clothing items can make you sick. Common symptoms of exposure include eye irritation, headaches, rashes, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.

Cleaning Products

Certain cleaning products and air fresheners can also impact the indoor air quality of your home. Avoid using strong cleaning products, and stick to natural options to clean and freshen the air in your home. If you must use something containing bleach or another heavy-duty cleansing agent, wear a mask and ventilate the area as much as possible.

Protect yourself and your loved ones by being aware of potential hazards hiding in your indoor air. With the right solutions in place, you can enjoy clean, healthy air and a safer atmosphere.

*Image via Flickr by Laineema

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