Is Your House Making You Sick? Improving Your Indoor Air Quality Many people spend a large portion of time indoors - as much as 80-90% of their lives. We work, study, eat, drink and sleep in enclosed environments where air circulation may be restricted. For these reasons, some experts feel that more people suffer from the effects of indoor air pollution than outdoor pollution. There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products; products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides and outdoor air pollution. Health Concerns Infants, young children and the elderly are a group shown to be more susceptible to pollutants. People with chronic respiratory or cardiovascular illness or immune system diseases are also more susceptible than others to pollutants. Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable. Identifying Air Quality Problems Some health effects can be useful indicators of an indoor air quality problem, especially if they appear after a person moves to a new residence, remodels or refurnishes a home, or treats a home with pesticides. Another way to judge whether your home has or could develop indoor air problems is to identify potential sources of indoor air pollution. Although the presence of such sources does not necessarily mean that you have an indoor air quality problem, being aware of the potential sources is an important step toward assessing the air quality in your home. Finally, look for signs of problems with the ventilation in your home. These may include moisture condensation on windows or walls, smelly or stuffy air, dirty central heating and air cooling equipment, and areas where books, shoes, or other items become moldy. Out With the Bad--Source Control Usually the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the amount of emissions. Ventilation Improvements Another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors. Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate. Bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate. It is particularly important to ventilate properly while you are involved in short-term activities such as painting, paint stripping, operating kerosene heaters, cooking, welding, soldering or sanding. Air Cleaners There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.