The Inspector

By NPI, Inc.

Melisa Rana
Melisa Rana


Your Home’s Best Defenses Against Air Pollution

 April 22, 2024 |  Home Inspection, Safety, Home Maintenance, DIY |  ventilation, mold, radon, windows

In this day and age, new homeowners are more informed and mindful about their family’s health than ever. Between dangers like lead paint, asbestos, and carbon monoxide leaks, builders have come a very long way in eliminating harmful toxins within the home. Still, threatening elements continue to loom around the home, and although air pollution today is not as high as in the past, reducing indoor air contamination should be on every homeowner’s to-do list!

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stresses that, although many visible forms of air pollution have died down since the 1970s, air pollution can be harmful even when it’s invisible. So, how can homeowners feel confident that their air is clean in a world full of smog and wildfires on top of some of the pollutants that are tougher to recognize? To find out, let’s discuss some common contaminants, and what people can do to keep their homes fresh.

What are the dangers posed by outdoor air?
Modern home design has led to houses being extremely closed off from outside elements, which is both a good and a bad thing. On the one hand, houses do a great job of keeping out many harmful pollutants that can result in health complications with overexposure.

  1. Smog builds up when sunlight comes into contact with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, like car exhaust and factory emissions. This interaction results in ground-level ozone, which can cause shortness of breath, asthma flare-ups, and other respiratory issues.
  2. Airborne Particles like those kicked up at construction sites can also cause adverse health effects, like allergy irritation and respiratory illnesses. Homeowners who see increased road work in their neighborhood can sometimes be affected by increased exposure to this particulate matter.
  3. Allergens can come from many different sources, but seasonal allergens like pollen can make outdoor air a major irritant for some. In these situations, the tighter building envelope of modern homes is a major benefit

How can homeowners keep pollution out?
If any of these outdoor air contaminants become an increased concern, homeowners have a few ways to decrease air leakage in their home and protect their families from subsequent health issues. Homes actually benefit from a certain level of circulation between fresh outdoor air and the stale air inside the home. However, during times when construction sites are active near the home, wildfires begin to pick up in the area, or pollen build-up makes the outside air too irritating, here are some simple ways to further close off the home:

  1. Close doors and windows
    The first–simplest–way to keep exterior air pollution outdoors is to close up windows, doors, and other openings like the fireplace damper. Once the conditions improve outdoors, just remember to reopen the damper and practice good ventilation!
  2. Apply caulking and weather strips
    Even when closed, some windows and doors can become improperly sealed due to wear and tear overtime, subpar building materials, or improper installation. To correct these issues, consider grabbing a putty knife, scraper, and a caulk gun to reseal the areas!
  3. Keep your exhaust fans off
    As mentioned, many home systems rely on replacing indoor air with new outdoor air. Kitchen, bathroom, and garage exhaust fans are all great for removing moisture and toxic fumes caused by sources like grease and petroleum. Still, when outdoor air quality worsens, it may be better to leave these fans off for the time being.

What causes poor indoor air quality?
Although there are plenty of dangers in outdoor air, the truth is that most modern homes are too good at keeping outside and inside air separate. Most concerns with indoor air quality within the home actually come from interior sources like home appliances, lead, or radon. Contaminated indoor air has much less room to dissipate, and since most people spend the majority of their days inside their houses, it’s crucial for all homeowners to know the state of their indoor air quality.

National Property Inspections offers indoor air quality testing so that homeowners can act on pollution sources before these issues lead to long-term health effects. Contact your local NPI inspector to learn more!

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