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How Healthy Is the Air Inside Your Home?

(ARA) – Do you suffer from allergies or asthma? We’re all aware of the potential hazards of allergens and pollutants in our outdoor environments, but have you ever considered what might be affecting your indoor environment?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, and indoor allergens and irritants can play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. Allergies are the 5th leading chronic disease in the United States among all ages, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the third most common chronic disease among children under 18 years of age. Thomas Boecher, vice president of DeLisle Associates, an environmental health and safety consulting firm, recommends “the avoidance of environmental triggers including pollen, environmental tobacco smoke, and mold is a very important key to minimizing problems related to asthma.”

How can you reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants at home? One proven method is to remove the source of the pollutant or allergen by cleaning your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. HVAC systems have been shown to act as a collection source for a variety of contaminants that have the potential to affect your health. These contaminants may include mold, fungi, bacteria, pet dander, construction debris, insect parts (dust mites and roaches) and very small particles of dust. The removal of these contaminants from the HVAC system and home is an important step in an overall plan to improve indoor air quality.

Experts suggest cleaning your air conveyance system every 2 to 5 years, depending on various conditions that may affect the cleanliness of the system. “When maintaining acceptable indoor air quality environments, cleaning and maintenance of buildings and their ventilation systems are vital in minimizing the spread of allergens,” says Boecher. Homes undergoing a renovation project, or those with pets, resident smokers, or located in environments with high humidity, may need to have their system cleaned more often. The best way to assess a need for cleaning is to inspect your system.

Once you’ve determined a need to have your HVAC system cleaned, the next step is finding a qualified contractor. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) is a good resource for your HVAC system cleaning needs. NADCA is the only organization that provides certification to HVAC cleaning contractors around the world, so you can be sure your contractor knows the proper ways to clean your system. NADCA also publishes an internationally recognized standard — Assessment, Cleaning & Restoration of HVAC Systems (ACR) — that specifies requirements for proper cleaning for the industry.

It is important to have the entire HVAC system cleaned, including the air handling unit, blower, and most importantly, the evaporator coil. A dirty evaporator coil has the potential to cause the largest amount of mold in your HVAC system. The combination of condensation and dirt buildup on a coil creates an ideal breeding ground for mold growth.

Other tips towards improving indoor air quality:

  • Increase ventilation. In some cases, this can be done by opening the windows and doors to provide fresh air from the outside. Installing exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens and properly maintaining air filters will also help air quality.
  • Limit the use of carpeting, an easy gathering and possible growing place for biological pollutants like mold, dust mites, and bacteria. Do not use carpeting directly on cement floors or in damp areas like the basement.
  • Vent bathrooms, kitchens, toilets, and laundry rooms directly outdoors. Also properly vent fireplaces, wood stoves, and other hearth products; use tight doors and outdoor air intakes for these products when possible.
  • Store volatile compounds such as paints, solvents, cleaners, and pesticides out of the occupiable space and away from ventilation air intakes.
  • Minimize or avoid altogether unvented combustion sources such as candles, cigarettes, indoor barbecues, decorative combustion appliances, or vent-free heaters.

For more information visit www.nadca.com.

Courtesy of ARA content