Carol Friedland, Reichel, Claudette H.
Because we spend so much of our lives in our homes, its important that the air quality in the home is safe and free of contaminats. Things like mold, volatile organic compounds, lead, dust and asbestos are just a few examples of indoor air quality contaminants that lower the home’s indoor air quality and can irritate the respiratory system.
Avoiding certain products is the best way to prevent an unhealthy indoor air quality. Opting for products without volatile organic compounds or synthetics, like some aerosol sprays and paints, is recommended to keep the air in the home clean. Additionally, keeping the home tidy can support a healthy indoor air quality as it prevents dust and pet dander from building up and irritating the respiratory system.
Monitors also help maintain indoor air quality as they can alert you to air quality issues early. There are monitors for volatile organic compounds, excess carbon dioxide, relative humidity and many other indicators of indoor air quality that can alert you that more ventilation is needed in the home. Additionally, frequently checking that your home's carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are working correctly is also very important for home safety.
For certain materials, like lead or asbestos, hiring certified professionals is always recommended as they know how to safely remove these materials without posing health risks. Radon levels in Louisiana are generally low, but professional testing is available if you’re concerned about radon poisoning.
Because mold can often be seen or smelled, if you recognize the signs of mold, it’s important to address the source of the moisture issues. Sometimes it's more difficult to identify mold, and a professional may be needed to help confirm the presence of mold and treat it.
Mold is more common in bathrooms due to the excess moisture and steam but can be easily avoided with proper ventilation. Running a vent fan during and for about 15 minutes after a shower or bath can reduce mold growth in the bathroom. While some people prefer to have a humidifier running in individual rooms, it's important that the humidity level remain between 30% and 50% to prevent moisture problems.
In addition to controlling the source of pollutants, effective ventilation is necessary to prevent air quality issues within the home. Improper ventilation for combustion appliances like gas stoves, ovens and fireplaces can release particles into the air that pose problems to the respiratory system. Ensuring all of these appliances have clean, working vents removes the harmful particles from the air.
Filters can also be useful to supplement these techniques. MERV 11 filters are generally recommended for the HVAC return vent and vacuuming with a HEPA or micro-filtration vacuum is helpful to maintain good indoor air quality.
This publication has more detailed information on maintaining a healthy indoor air quality and discusses more strategies to filter air.