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Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality is very important. On average, people in industrialized nations spend about 90% of their time indoors, and most of that is in their homes. The unfortunate thing is that modern homes can contain substances that are potentially hazardous to our health. These range from normal dust, to major irritants, such as the chemical vapor off-gassing from the newer synthetic building materials being used today.
Indoor air quality is often referred to as the sleeping giant of the building industry. It can be 10 times worse than outdoor air on smoggy days in big cities. Of all the chemicals that EPA regulates, only two are more prevalent outdoors than inside our homes and schools. This is a quiet epidemic brewing right under our noses. As the complexity of houses, especially with the dawn of synthetic products, increase, so do the risks to human health, not only for the chemically sensitive and the allergy sufferers but for all of our children.Problem Sources
Contaminants can enter our bodies in three main ways: ingestion, touch, and inhalation. The pollutants of main concern when assessing a homes’ IAQ, are the airborne contaminants, which usually affect humans through inhalation.
These contaminants are either biological or chemical. The biological ones can originate either in the home or outside. Molds, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, and bacteria are all considered biological contaminants, with molds being the trickiest of the bunch. Molds produce both particulates (spores and residual matter) and gases (volatile compounds characterized as musty odors). High moisture content inside homes supports the growth and presence of mold. The spores are already there. All spores need to grow into colonies is the addition of water, typically in warm, dry places.
The other forms of contaminants are chemicals, which include both gases and particulates. Though the sources are numerous for chemical contaminants, there are several main chemicals, some obvious and some not, that pose a risk.
Combustion by-products, including carbon monoxide, from furnaces, boilers and water heaters can also be a major source of problems. Sealed combustion units alleviate the potential of back drafting these gasses into the living space.
Radon is potentially responsible for as many cases of lung cancer as cigarettes. Preventative rough-in for future radon mitigation is a simple and cost-effective procedure in new construction.
The single most significant source of potential health hazards is from attached garages. Car exhaust contains many known carcinogens and can migrate into the living space through doors and when doors are opened to the garage. These gasses can also migrate though poorly sealed walls and ceilings. An exhaust fan reduces the potential for exhaust to reach the house.
Occupant activity (like smoking a cigarette), combustion of gases from burning fossil fuels (operating a water heater), gases released from building material...