Have you ever thought about the amount of time your family spends indoors, at work or school, in the car, and at home? It’s estimated that people spend up to 90% of their time indoors. Now imagine it’s winter when there are times you need to stay indoors to protect yourself from the dangerous elements outdoors. Your time indoors will not only give you cabin fever (how many times can your kids play Go-Fish?!) but it also might cause you to get sick.
You may think you and your family are safe, but there can be an even greater risk inside. Growing scientific evidence has indicated that air within homes and buildings can be 2 – 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Indoor air pollution poses the most risk to children as they breathe an average of 16-30 breaths per minute, making them more susceptible to related health complications.
There are many factors that can worsen indoor air quality, including inadequate ventilation in your home. By not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources or carry those indoor pollutants out of the home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that pose health risks and comfort problems to those living in your home. For many people, the winter months can be too cold to open the windows to let fresh air in. With the increased amount of time spent indoors by families and their pets, a home’s air duct system can become dirty, and the quality of the air inside begins to worsen.
Air Contaminants in Your home
Breathing Clean, an initiative developed by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), is dedicated to educating homeowners on indoor air quality and benefits of air conditioning duct cleaning, and warns parents of these common indoor air pollutants:
- Biological contaminants include bacteria, molds, mildew, pet dander, dust mites, and pollen. These contaminants can be spread throughout your home circulating into the air handling unit of your home’s air conditioner or furnace. Common allergic reactions include stuffy nose, watery eyes, wheezing, and rashes. The type of symptoms and their severity depend on the types of contaminants present and the extent of exposure; however, children, seniors, and those with preexisting conditions can be at risk for major complications.
- Organic chemicals are widely used in household products including cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, and hobby products that we use every day. These products, made up of organic chemicals, naturally give off gasses called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for indoor air quality. Breathing in low levels of VOCs for a long time may cause health problems, so it is important to reduce the levels in your home.
- Smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigar or cigarette, and smoke exhaled from a smoker can harm your indoor air. This smoke is a complex mixture of over 7,000 substances, many of which are known to cause cancer to humans or animals. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because they are still developing physically, have a higher respiratory rate than adults, and have little control of their indoor environment, including where and when the adults in their world choose to smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause asthma, increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), pneumonia and bronchitis.
Stoves, heaters, and fireplaces
- In the winter months, you may be creating a warm and cozy environment by using the fireplace; however, pollutants from fireplaces and woodstoves with no dedicated outdoor air supply can be “back-drafted” from the chimney into the living space. Infants, children, and those with respiratory problems can be especially sensitive to these exposures.
Air Duct Cleaning for Cleaner AirAir duct cleaning can improve your indoor air quality and reduce health problems for your family by removing the buildup of everyday air pollutants like dust, dirt, and dander. Cleaning your system ahead of changing seasons is a great way to improve your family’s overall health and your home’s energy efficiency. Since air conditioning duct cleaning removes pollutants, the air you breathe indoors becomes cleaner and less contaminated.
NADCA recommends that HVAC systems be inspected annually and cleaned as needed. When hiring an air duct cleaning contractor, be sure to look for proof of NADCA certification. You can find a certified air duct cleaner in your area using the Find-A-Professional feature on BreathingClean.com.
Looking for more ways to stay healthy this winter? Check out 5 Tips to Keep Kids Healthy during Cold & Flu Season
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