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3 reasons to consider indoor air-quality testing

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Three reasons to consider indoor air-quality testing,Indoor air pollutants are all around us, from radon and rodents to VOCs and NO2. Here are a few reasons why air-quality testing might help you breathe easier.

1. Combustion

gas flame, carbon monoxide, indoor air quality testing

Gases and particles from combustion are the leading sources of indoor air pollution worldwide. Household cookstoves alone kill about 4 million people every year, mostly in developing countries, but this category also includes heating stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, space heaters and tobacco smoke. The top pollutants released by combustion are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter.

CO causes an array of symptoms — from headaches and nausea to confusion and unconsciousness — and kills about 500 people in the U.S. per year. NO2 irritates mucous membranes and causes shortness of breath, and long-term exposure to low levels may raise the risk of lung infections or emphysema. Airborne particulates can lodge in the lungs, potentially damaging tissue and even working their way into the bloodstream.

CO is colorless and odorless, so the best way to detect it is by installing CO alarms near bedrooms and fuel-burning appliances. Those appliances should also be inspected at least once a year by a qualified technician, as should chimneys, flues and air-handling systems. Other combustion products are easier to see and smell — NO2 is reddish-brown with an acrid odor, for example — but low levels can also be detected with certain instruments. And when using a stove, space heater or fireplace, ventilate with a fan or window.

2. Radon
porch - air quality testing under the home
Another colorless and odorless gas, radon, is the No. 2 cause of lung cancer in the U.S., killing about 21,000 Americans every year. Nearly all soil contains low levels of decaying uranium, which emits radon, although certain regions have more than others. It normally dissipates harmlessly into outdoor air, but it can also flow into buildings through gaps in the foundation, eventually reaching unsafe levels in basements and lower floors.While the EPA’s radon zone map can hint at your general risk, air-quality testing is the only way to be sure. DIY radon test kits are available online and in home improvement stores, but the EPA suggests contacting your state radon office first, as some states offer free or discounted kits. And since careful steps must be taken to ensure an accurate reading, many people opt for a qualified radon inspector, especially when buying a home.The average indoor radon level is 1.3 pico curies per liter (pCi/L), and the EPA recommends taking action if you detect a level of 4 pCi/L or higher. Radon remediation involves sealing off the building’s interior from exposed soil, a complex task typically best left to professionals. The average cost is about $1,200, according to the EPA.

3. Asbestos
asbestos particles - air quality in old buildings
Like radon, asbestos occurs naturally in soil, posing little health risk until it gets indoors. While radon sneaks in, however, most asbestos is an invited guest that has overstayed its welcome. The heat-resistant mineral fiber has long been used as a building material and insulator, but its stock crashed in recent decades amid news that inhaling its fibers can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma and long-term lung scarring.Most modern homes and offices now use alternative materials, but older buildings may still contain asbestos. Even then, the fibers only become airborne when they’re disturbed, so the most practical solution is often to simply leave asbestos alone. That’s not always an option, though — an aging home may need repairs in its asbestos-lined attic, for example, or squirrels may have kicked up the fibers while looking for a place to spend the winter.Given the risks involved, DIY asbestos remediation is rarely a good idea. Even taking your own samples for testing isn’t recommended. If you suspect a material contains asbestos, look for signs of damage without touching it, then contact a professional inspector to learn more. Federal law doesn’t require accreditation for asbestos work in single-family homes, but some states and municipalities do. See this list of state asbestos contacts for help.

 

 


 

 

Posted on: August 21, 2015, by : FAS SWFL