If you were asked to name one of the top five environmental health risks, would you include indoor air pollutants? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should, since indoor air can actually be more polluted than outdoor air. Americans typically spend 90 percent of each day indoors, with half of that in homes that are sealed more tightly than ever to conserve energy. And 50 percent of illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air, according to the American College of Allergists, contributing to headaches, lung irritation and fatigue, plus long-term concerns like asthma.
“Allergy complaints have tripled in the last five years,” says Claude Drabek, owner of Oklahoma City’s Drabek and Hill, Inc. And while there is nothing that can be done about outside air, this fact emphasizes the importance of creating clean, healthy interior air quality.
Pollutants that can affect your home include particulate matter such as dust, pollen, animal dander, dust mites, molds, bacteria and viruses. Gaseous pollutants come from combustion processes, including gas cooking stoves, tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust. But they also come from the building materials in your home, plus paints, cleaning products and pesticides.
Drabek offers a three-step process when assessing individual home air quality. “It’s important to inspect heat and air ductwork first,” he explains. “If it is an older system or the ductwork wasn’t properly sealed, dust, dirt and contaminants will continually flow into the home.” Next a customer survey helps identify personal health issues potentially affecting the customer and family. And finally, a site survey allows an air quality consultant to inspect the premises for additional problems such as mold.
New technology has also changed the products typically installed in homes today. “In the past, humidifiers were very popular because heat and air systems depleted most of the moisture in the air,” says Drabek. Now, high-efficiency home systems don’t dry out the air, so at least in the Midwest, humidifiers aren’t as necessary as in the past.
And indoor air pollution doesn’t just affect your health since dust and contaminants can decrease the efficiency of your heating and air conditioning systems by up to 25 percent. Plus your furniture, draperies and walls will stay cleaner with a whole house clean air system.
To improve your existing system, buy high-efficiency filters. According to the EPA, those with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of seven to 13 are equal to a HEPA filter. Electronic UV filters are also popular, but there is no standard measurement for their effectiveness.
Air Comfort Solutions offers the latest in germicidal ultraviolet air purification since typical filtration systems often don’t remove airborne contaminants or the biological and chemical agents that make up nearly 65 percent of indoor air pollution.
Of course, a high efficiency whole house air purifier will produce the best result for clean interior air quality, and according to Drabek, they can be installed for around $1,500 to $2,500. And that will provide your family with a breath of fresh air.