Understanding the Dangers of Poor Indoor Air Quality
For every homeowner out there, the homes we live in are considered our “safe spots”. They are the place where we can return to after long and exhausting days of work to be with family and friends. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the air inside the homes we live in may very well come with hidden hazards that could be damaging our long-term health.
According to studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), human exposure to air pollutants indicates that indoor pollutants might be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Though we often associate air pollution with factory smokestacks and congested inner-city traffic, the air we breathe inside our homes may be significantly worse than the air outside. The EPA studies even found that some air contaminants may be up to 100 times higher in indoor settings. Given that the average person spends around 90 percent of their time indoors, improving indoor air quality is often one of the most important things we can do to improve our overall health.
When we think about environmental risks to public health, most of us probably think about the real risks of global climate change, disease-causing microbes, or environmental contamination caused by polluting industries. Though these environmental issues certainly do pose a serious risk to public health, the issue of indoor air pollution is ranked by the EPA as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.
Below, we take an in-depth look at some of the specific health dangers that come with indoor air quality. In a subsequent blog post, we’ll then explain a few of the most straightforward strategies for improving the air quality inside our homes.
Cancer Concerns due to High Levels of Radon
One of the most dangerous indoor air pollutants is radon, which the EPA defines as “a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Radon gas is inert, colorless, and odorless. Radon is naturally in the atmosphere in trace amounts. Outdoors, radon disperses rapidly and, generally, is not a health concern. Most radon exposure occurs inside homes, schools, and workplaces.” Radon gas is a known human carcinogen and is considered by experts to be the second leading cause of lung cancer around the world.
Radon gas arises due to the natural decomposition of uranium that is present in almost all different types of soil. Radon gas can leak into our homes through cracks and fissures in our home’s foundations. Improperly sealed basements are also one of the leading causes of radon gas leaking into the home. When radon gas accumulates within our homes, it drastically increases the risk of lung cancer. Around 21,000 people die of lung cancer caused by exposure to radon each year in the United States alone, and only smoking is known to cause more lung-cancer-related deaths.
Here at Conrado Home Builders, we have over thirty years of experience building the best custom homes and renovations for homeowners around the San Francisco area. While radon is not a significant risk in the area of California where we build, our focus on legendary quality allows us to ensure that your home’s foundation is not exposed to radon leaks. We are committed to ensuring completely airtight building envelopes on all of the homes that we build or renovate. Not only does this drastically reduce your home’s heating and cooling bills, but it can also help you and your family rest assured that you are not exposed to cancerous radon gas inside your home.
Dangerous Forms of Pneumonia and other Respiratory Diseases
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to affect millions of people around the country, avoiding respiratory infections and diseases is obviously a significant health concern for most people. However, old and improperly maintained HVAC systems in their homes may very well be exposing millions of people to dangerous bacteria that could cause severe forms of pneumonia.
According to the prestigious Mayo Clinic, Legionnaires’ disease is a “severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. It’s caused by a bacterium known as legionella.” Though it is almost impossible to be infected with this bacteria through soil exposure, the legionella bacteria has been known to infect and multiply within poorly maintained air conditioning or heating systems, especially older ones. If this dangerous bacteria is present in the ductwork or other elements of your home’s HVAC components, you could be spreading a dangerous pneumonia-causing pathogen every time you turn on your home’s air conditioning.
Here at Conrado Home Builders, we can help you, and your family avoid this potentially dangerous pathogen in your home by recommending the best, safest, and most efficient home heating and cooling technologies. Our HomeCare program is also a great way for homeowners to ensure that all of their home maintenance tasks (including regular servicing and checkups on their HVAC system) are taken care of by professionals.
Increased Risk of Allergies and Asthma
Another major cause of poor air quality inside the homes we live in are allergens that accumulate within our homes. Several of the most common indoor air pollutants, including dust mites, mold, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particulate matter, and others, are known to trigger asthma and other severe allergic reactions. Around the nation, around 25 million Americans suffer from mild to severe asthma. Eight percent of adults and seven percent of children have asthma and need to take special precautions to reduce their exposure to specific allergens that could trigger asthma attacks following exposure.
For many people who suffer from asthma or other types of allergic reactions, exposure to different types of mold and mildew is one of the most irritating indoor air pollutants. Some experts believe that up to 70 percent of homes suffer from mold damage. Because mold and mildew thrive in damp and moist environments, homes with high humidity levels, roof leaks, leaking foundations, and other similar problems are at high risk of suffering from mold infestations. Exposure to mold spores doesn’t only cause asthma attacks in people who suffer from this condition but can also cause irritation in the “eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people”, according to the EPA.
One of the best ways to reduce your exposure to mold and mildew is to ensure that your household is adequately ventilated to guarantee optimum humidity levels. Conrado Home Builders has decades of experience in implementing the leading green building technologies and techniques. We can help homeowners design and implement the best natural and mechanical ventilation systems for custom homes. A steady and continuous influx of fresh outdoor air is the best way to keep your mold and mildew from spreading throughout your home.
The Dangers of Exposure to Volatile Organic Compounds inside the Home
Lastly, millions of people across the country are regularly exposed to dozens of dangerous chemicals due to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are present in several common elements within the home. The vast majority of homeowners may regularly be exposed to several different types of VOCs, including “benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene, toluene, xylene, and 1,3-butadiene”. Some of these VOCs, like formaldehyde and benzene, are classified as known carcinogens, and long-term exposure through VOCs off-gassing into your home may significantly increase your risk of suffering from cancer.
Volatile organic compounds may be negatively affecting your indoor air quality due to certain types of building products, the use of chemical-laden cleaning and personal care products, and certain types of activities that you engage in within the home. Some of the main sources of high levels of VOCs in the home include:
- Certain types of paint, varnishes, caulks, and adhesives
- Carpet and vinyl flooring
- Stain-resistant rugs, which are often treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), a potentially dangerous VOC
- Composite wood products with high amounts of formaldehyde
- Upholstery and foam products in mattresses, couches, and other pieces of furniture
- Certain types of air fresheners
- Chemical cleaning products
- Fuel oil, gasoline
- Improperly vented wood-burning stoves
Fortunately, the risk of long-term exposure to VOCs has become a leading public health concern. As more and more homeowners have begun to demand healthier indoor air quality, low-VOC and zero-VOC products have become widely available. Today it is completely possible to find low-VOC or no-VOC options for indoor paint, composite wood products, furniture, flooring, and more.
Here at Conrado Home Builders, we are also 100 percent dedicated to creating homes that are as VOC-free as possible. We only use the lowest VOC paints, varnishes, and other finishing materials for the custom homes we build. Also, we prioritize plywood and other composite wood products that have zero-added formaldehyde. Whether we are building a custom home from scratch, or doing a complete home renovation, we also take it a step further to make sure to implement the best ventilation and air purification strategies to ensure that our clients are never breathing in high levels of VOCs within their homes.
Conrado Home Builders Keeps Indoor Air Quality in Mind with Our Builds
Our homes should certainly be places where we feel safe, protected, and sheltered. Improving the quality of the air we breathe inside the walls of our structures is one of the most important aspects of a healthy home. Understanding the specific dangers that come with poor indoor air quality is the first step in designing a home that addresses these hazards. If you are interested in discovering the best ways to design and build a home that provides you and your family with the best indoor air quality, contact Conrado Home Builders today!