Indoor air quality is a hidden risk factor for many different types of lung conditions. Most people assume that by regularly cleaning their house cosmetically they are “keeping it clean.” While removing dust makes the house look better and does slightly increase air quality, the biggest risk factors are toxins that can accumulate in air without sensory detection. If you have asbestos, carbon monoxide or lead in your home then your home may very well be making you sick. Here is some background information on each of these toxic compounds and how to minimize your risk:
Sources: Asbestos is found in many construction materials, especially in older homes. It may be found in insulation for pipes, flooring, tiling and more.
Risks: When asbestos is “disturbed,” or set airborne through physical manipulation (knocking into an old unused insulated pipe and setting the asbestos fibers airborne would be an example), it can lead to mesothelioma over years of exposure. This is an extremely aggressive form of cancer that can be deadly.
Resolution: An asbestos air monitor can help you ensure that your home is at an acceptable level for this toxin. If levels are high, hire a professional to assess and treat the issue.
Sources: Carbon monoxide leaks from home appliances that aren’t properly vented. Anything from a clothes dryer to a water heater to a gas stove can leak carbon monoxide if set up improperly.
Risks: Carbon monoxide is hard to detect due to its odorless nature. For this reason, 400 people each year die of carbon monoxide poisoning according to the CDC. Even if you aren’t acutely poisoned, high levels of CO in the home can cause symptoms from chest tightness to vomiting and nausea.
Resolution: Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. These usually come standard in the U.S., but there should be one in every room for maximum protection.
Sources: Most lead in the home comes from lead-based paint which was phased out starting 40 years ago. If the paint is chipped and in poor condition, there is a much greater chance of exposure through inhalation.
Risks: Lead is harmful to human health and especially toxic to children. It can actually lower intelligence years after exposure (although the effect is much smaller in adults).
Resolution: Get a paint inspection. This is a term that’s not common yet but it should be. There are certified contractors for each state who can assess the risk and re-paint to cover the lead if needed.
Since all three of these toxins are hard to detect with just the senses, it’s strongly recommended to purchase the necessary air monitors to test for them. You can sleep better knowing that you’re breathing in air that’s not harming you.