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Outdoor Air Pollution’s Effect On Indoor Air

To keep your family healthy and comfortable, it’s important to ensure that the quality of your indoor air is as pristine as possible. After all, most people spend an average of at least four hours during the day inside their homes. Of course, that doesn’t include the six to eight hours you spend asleep there each day. If your home suffers from poor air quality, this extended exposure could have significant negative health effects for both you and your family.

While there are certainly internal factors that can negatively affect your indoor environment, outdoor air pollutants can also lower the quality of the air you breathe in your home. To help you understand these factors and how to combat them, here are some tips for managing the effects of outdoor air pollution on your indoor air.

Types of Outdoor Pollutants

To best understand how to manage the effects of outdoor pollutants in your home, McQuillan Brothers in St. Paul thinks it’s important that you learn about some of the various types of outdoor pollutants. This is because different outdoor pollutants pose different risks and require different methods of removal.

Larger pollutants are known as PM10 pollutants. They are called this because outdoor pollutants are officially known as “particulate matter,” so their acronym is PM. The number 10 refers to the size. Pollutants in this category are 10 microns or less. Though that sounds small, most PM10 pollutants are visible with the naked eye.

PM10 pollutants include many naturally occurring contaminants such as pollen, mold and other airborne allergens. In addition, this category includes all types of airborne dust. Since these pollutants are largely naturally occurring, they tend to not be hazardous to your health. However, they can cause allergies, so they should still be limited as much as possible.

The next category of pollutants is known as PM2.5 pollutants because they are typically 2.5 microns or less in size. Most of the pollutants in this category are manmade and tend to have more serious health effects when present in high enough concentrations.

Pollutants resulting from the burning of fossil fuels such as oil or coal, smoke resulting from the burning of wood or other types of biomass, and vehicle exhaust are all included here. This category encompasses even the smallest particles that can enter your bloodstream through your lungs.

In many cases, pollutants in the second category can react with heat during the summer to produce ozone. If you’ve ever experienced an “ozone action day,” you know just how unpleasant it is to be outside when this phenomenon occurs. If there are elevated levels of ozone in your area, it could be hazardous to those with sensitive respiratory systems, including young children and the elderly. Therefore, it’s crucial that you keep your home closed-up tight on ozone action days.

How Outdoor Pollutants Get In

If the air in your home is relatively clean, then outdoor air pollutants have the potential to come in every time you open the front door. This is because the pollutants that exist in higher concentrations outside your home will rush to the area of lower concentration inside your home. Beyond this basic exchange, though, there are many other ways that outdoor pollutants find their way into your home.

Open windows are a common entrance point for outdoor pollutants. While opening a window is a great way to freshen the air in your residence, especially when it’s been closed-up all winter, it’s vital that you check the local air quality report before you “throw up the sash.”

Other commonly overlooked entrance points for outdoor pollutants are all the cracks throughout your house. Any crack that is large enough to allow air through can also allow pollutants to enter, especially those smaller pollutants that tend to be more harmful. In addition to allowing pollutants in, these cracks can lower the energy efficiency of your home by significant amounts.

Risks and Solutions

The biggest problem when outdoor air pollutants enter your home is that they become trapped inside the residence, leading to higher concentrations of indoor pollution. Without wind to circulate the pollutants and bring in fresh air, the air inside your home will quickly become a dangerous mix of indoor and outdoor pollutants. Respiratory illness, headaches, nausea, chest pain, lightheadedness and other side effects can all result from overexposure to outdoor pollutants.

Worse yet, some outdoor contaminants can mix with certain indoor pollutants to create combinations that are even more dangerous, putting you and your family at real risk of long-term health issues. It’s clear, therefore, that action must be taken to help protect your family.

One of the most important steps you can take is simply being aware of the outdoor air quality. Air quality reports that we use at McQuillan Brothers can be accessed through the Environmental Protection Agency. You can also refer to local meteorological reports. If there are days when the air quality is especially poor, it’s best to keep your windows closed even if the temperature is pleasant.

Additionally, you need to be aware of the air quality inside your home. You can acquire the tools to check this yourself. There are several testing kits to obtain snapshots of your indoor air quality. There are also devices that allow you to monitor the air quality on an ongoing basis, even sending reports to your phone to provide real-time updates. Alternatively, you can have the professionals from McQuillan Brothers perform these tests for you. We’re IAQ (indoor air quality) specialists.

Simply being aware of the air quality in your home is not enough, though. In order to truly make a difference, it’s important to work toward improving it. One great way to do this is with an air purifier.

We recommend that you consider a HEPA-certified air filter. These filters are rated to remove 99.7% of airborne contaminants down to a certain size. For smaller contaminants, such as those in the PM2.5 category, you will need a chemical purifier in addition to the physical filter. In this way, you can capture and detoxify the pollutants. An activated carbon filter is an effective type of chemical filter that can help with outdoor and indoor pollutants alike.

Another step you can take is to add indoor plants. Plants remove harmful substances from the air during photosynthesis. In addition, plants have the added bonus of releasing oxygen into the air, providing a steady supply of fresh air for your home.

If you’re ready to take your indoor air quality seriously, the team at McQuillan Brothers is prepared to assist you. We’ve been serving the Minneapolis and St. Paul region for over 135 years, so you can trust that we’ll be around to take care of you both now and in the future. Still family owned and operated, our business prides itself on the level of service we’re able to offer our customers.

Additionally, we believe firmly in contributing to our community, both through our Giving Back Campaign and our support of Feed My Starving Children. Our customers appreciate our commitment to service and professionalism. It’s evidenced by our multitude of positive reviews.

We can take care of a wide variety of home maintenance and improvement needs. We repair, maintain and install all types of HVAC systems, including central systems, ductless mini-split systems and high-velocity systems. We can also install whole-home humidifiers to help your home stay comfortable year-round. Plumbing is another area at which we excel. We can take care of everything from your sump pump to your water heater.

Regardless of the heating, cooling, air quality or plumbing issue you have in or around Minneapolis or St. Paul, trust McQuillan Brothers to handle it. Give us a call today to transform the way you enjoy your home.

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