How's Your Indoor Air Quality

Most people think of pollution as an outdoor source of contaminants that can have damaging effects on health. But did you know that exposure to pollutants can be up to 100 times higher indoors?

If you're thinking 'not in my house,' keep in mind that of the millions of particles that float in every cubic foot of your home, you can see only about 1 per cent without a microscope! You can vacuum and clean all you want, but because of their naturally sticky characteristics, these particles are usually left behind even after the most stringent scrubbing. Plus, many of the contaminants are so small that they never even land on a surface.

Indoor air is circulated and recycled over and over, and today's homes are insulated better than ever before to conserve energy - so the tiny culprits are trapped inside. Add to that the startling fact that in today's world, people spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors, especially in the winter, and it's easy to understand why respiratory problems such as asthma, allergies and emphysema may be due in part to the lack of filtration of the indoor air we breathe.

Most people are unaware of the contaminant-producing aspects of their day-to-day lives. Pets shed skin scales and hair, and produce allergy-inducing dander. If you or any of your family members smoke, if your home contains urea-formaldehyde or asbestos insulation, if you engage in hobbies such as woodworking or model-building, if you use pressurized aerosol canisters or insecticides or pesticides indoors, if you operate an unvented gas space heater, if heating vents are corroded or rusted, and/or if part of your living area is below ground, you live with contaminants you most likely cannot see.

You may, however, be able to smell or see the effects of some of them. If your air seems stale or you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces, you may have a build-up of contaminants. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, colds, sinus problems, lack of energy, itchy or watery eyes and/or mild depression in you or your family members may indicate a problem with indoor air quality.