Did you know your home could be making you sick? Whether you suffer from asthma or other respiratory issues, take some essential steps to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your apartment in Philadelphia.
Steps to Improve IAQ
All apartments could be affected by poor IAQ — including older homes and new construction. Poor IAQ is attributed to gases or particles that are released into the air within the home. To improve IAQ, take these steps:
– Identify the sources of possible contamination — like gas stoves and moldy bathrooms — and work to ensure that they are properly cleaned and regularly maintained.
– Ensure proper ventilation within the home to move the gases and particles out and bring fresh air in. This could be as simple as keeping the windows open. When it is too cold or hot and you must use forced heating/cooling systems, consider airing out the home sometimes by opening the windows.
– Equalize the home’s humidity and temperature to avoid mold and fungus growth, as these things can pollute the air.
– Add air cleaners to the home to further reduce harmful gases and particles. Some air purifiers are available online or at a local home repair store and can be placed on a table to clean the air in that room.
Let’s learn more about the sources of poor IAQ, the risks associated with them, and specific ways to eliminate those harmful gases and particles so you can breathe easy in your Philadelphia apartment.
Radon: Lung Cancer Risk
Lung cancer is responsible for 21,000 deaths annually. However, 2,900 of lung cancer-related deaths occur in individuals who have never smoked. In these cases, radon is responsible for causing the illness. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages homeowners to test for radon. These test kits can be purchased from a home improvement store, or homeowners can hire someone to come into the home to test for the gas. Homeowners can contact the National Radon Proficiency Program or the National Radon Safety Board for additional information.
Any home that registers radon levels of 4 pCi/L are at risk for its inhabitants developing lung cancer.
IAQ and Asthma
One in 13 Americans has asthma, or about 26 million adults and children. Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things, and the air in the home could also contribute to the condition. Mold, dust mites, pet dander, and second-hand smoke are the most common home-related asthma triggers. Improving indoor air quality can significantly impact the quality of life of an asthma sufferer.
Cut down on the risk of asthma triggers by:
– Regularly vacuuming
– Frequently washing curtains and rugs
– Changing your sheets each week, and washing them in hot water
– Don’t smoke inside your apartment
Mold Contributes to Poor IAQ
Mold has numerous adverse health effects, including exacerbating asthma. The easiest way to ensure your home is free from mold is to address any issues with standing water or damp areas — particularly in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Remember that mold can grow anywhere, including wood, food, rugs, and paper. The EPA recommends the following actions to be taken to decrease mold growth in the home:
– Reduce your apartment’s humidity to 30 to 60%. This includes ensuring bathrooms are properly ventilated and using air conditioners and de-humidifiers to extract extraneous moisture from the air.
– If your apartment experiences flooding, or even a leaky faucet, act fast to avoid mold growth. Mold grows quickly and can soon take over an area if left untreated for too long.
– Most small areas of mold growth can be appropriately cleaned up with little effort. However, if a large area is affected, contact the management team.
– Check your HVAC intakes. If the mold is growing near an intake, it could be transported into the air and circulated throughout the entire house. If you even suspect that mold could be in your HVAC system, do not run it until a professional can evaluate the situation.
Tobacco Smoke Threatens Indoor Air Quality
If you smoke, quit as soon as possible. One way to encourage quitting is to consider the risk of second-hand smoke among non-smoking family members. Smoke is pervasive and its carcinogens can stay in carpets, walls, furniture, and more, thereby affecting everyone who enters the home. In fact, secondhand smoke is responsible for 41,000 deaths per year, according to the American Lung Association.
Smoking also exacerbates asthma and contributes to poor IAQ. The only way to truly guard your home against the effects of secondhand smoke is to simply not smoke inside. While air filters and increased ventilation can decrease the intensity of secondhand smoke, they simply cannot completely eliminate it.
Carbon Monoxide Harms IAQ — and Can be Deadly
The unfortunate reality of carbon monoxide is that it is completely odorless and colorless. It is incredibly toxic and can kill people before they even recognize that they are being affected. Common household sources of carbon monoxide include:
– Space heaters
– Gas stoves
– Tobacco smoke
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include fatigue and chest pain. High concentrations of carbon monoxide cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, impaired vision, nausea, and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, death can occur because the intake of oxygen is limited.
Keep your home safe from carbon monoxide by ensuring appropriate ventilation and make sure all appliances that use gas are properly connected. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors on every level of the home.