Air Pollution in Home

Problem: Indoor air contains pollutants that have the potential to affect your health.

Background: Although pollutants such as radon may come from outside air or soil, many indoor air pollutants are generated within the home—sometimes in ex cess of ten times the concentration of outdoor levels. Besides radon, potential pollutants include asbestos, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, car bon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Typical sources of asbestos include pipe and duct insulation, shingles, and firewalls. Carbon dioxide sources include unvented combustion and human respiration.
Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide can come from gas stoves, furnaces, cigarettes, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, and unvented space heaters. Formaldehyde can be emitted from newly installed urea- formaldehyde foam insulation, or from new manufactured wood products such as furniture, ply wood, particle board, or paneling.

What to do: Ways of measuring in door air pollution have been developed, but in many cases they involve expensive equipment and technical expertise. Some private laboratories can pinpoint pollutants, but may charge between $300 and $2,000 to do such tests. Relatively inexpensive monitors that measure radon, formaldehyde, and nitrogen dioxide can be installed in your home and later sent to a lab for analysis. The more air exchanges there are within the home the more often indoor pollutants are diluted with outdoor air to lower pollution concentrations. The more tightly concentrated a home, the lower its air-change rate will be. However, proper distribution of outside air within the home must also be considered because indoor pollution is generated in different areas of the home.
Eliminate obvious sources of pollutants, such as all unvented combustion appliances, from the living space. A yellow flame in your gas furnace may indicate insufficient air supply for combustion, causing an increase in carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. Attaching a combustion air duct from the outside to the appliance helps ensure safe combustion and minimizes the use of heated air inside the home. If the home seems too humid or has excessive condensation on windows, remove as many sources of moisture in the house as possible . This may include firewood stored in the basement, clothes hung inside to dry, and leaking basements.

Special advice: High levels of car bon dioxide (C02) may indicate that ventilation systems are not delivering enough fresh air. Symptoms may include stuffy air, drowsiness, dizziness, and headaches. First try running several fans at night to help mix air, leaving bedroom doors open and setting fans to blow air out into the hail and living areas. If you have a forced-air heating system, set the furnace fan to run continuously at night. If you don’t feel more refreshed in a week or two, try running the fans, plus leaving a window in each bedroom open about a quarter of an inch. Also make sure there is an adequate gap between all interior doors and the floor.

Helpful hint: If the above measures don’t help, consider having a mechanical ventilation system installed by a contractor. To determine if a gas furnace is leaking combustion by products, hire a qualified professional. If you ever smell leaking gas in the home, contact your gas utility company immediately and follow their instructions.