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So What is Poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and where does it come from?  What are Allergens?

Are you concerned about the air quality in your home?  Typically, babies, children, asthmatics and those with allergies or respiratory issues can be more sensitive to poor indoor air quality (IAQ).  Poor indoor air quality is an important health and safety concern. Several well-identified diseases and chronic illnesses have been traced to specific IAQ-related problems.

Biological and Chemical Indoor Air Pollutants

Many of the most common types of indoor air pollutants can be categorized as either biological or chemical in nature.  Biological pollutants are a living thing or were at least produced by one. The most common biological indoor pollutants include the following agents or allergens:

  • molds and mildew;

  • pollen;

  • house dust mites;

  • cockroaches;

  • animal dander, saliva, and urine; and

  • viruses and bacteria.

Contaminated HVAC systems may serve as a catalyst for biological indoor pollutants. It provides prime breeding conditions for mold, mildew, fungus, and other sources of biological indoor pollutants. Additionally, HVAC systems inevitably distribute pollutants through a property.

There are also chemical pollutants in indoor air. The most common chemical pollutants include the following agents:

  • radon;

  • carbon monoxide

  • ozone;

  • environmental tobacco (ETS) or secondhand smoke;

  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs);

  • pesticides;

  • nitrogen dioxide;

  • formaldehyde;

  • asbestos;

  • lead; and

  • arsenic

Many indoor environments have several different types of pollutants present that contribute to overall poor indoor air quality. The relative importance of any single type of pollution depends on emission and exposure levels and how hazardous the particular pollutant is.

There are severe health risks associated with indoor air pollution, but there are steps that most people can take to pinpoint problems. It all starts with contacting an IAC2 Certified Consultant to discuss your particular concerns. IAC2 Certified Consultants are trained in the areas of indoor air quality and can help you preserve a healthy indoor environment.

Whether you live in an apartment, townhome or single-family home, an old home, or are building a new home, there is a potential for exposure to indoor air pollution through any of the sources mentioned above.

Contact me as an IAC2 Certified Consultant to learn about how to improve your indoor aid quality to protect yourself and your family from problems related to an unhealthy indoor environment.

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Symptoms of Exposure to Poor IAQ


In general, the following symptoms are often linked to exposure of poor IAQ:

  • dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin;

  • headache;

  • fatigue;

  • shortness of breath;

  • hypersensitivity and allergies;

  • asthma attacks;

  • sinus congestion;

  • coughing and sneezing;

  • dizziness;

  • nausea;

  • aggravated or worsened existing illness; and

  • feeling noticeably healthier outside.


If you think that you have symptoms that may be related to your home or work environment, discuss them with your doctor or your local health department to examine if they are a result of exposure to poor IAQ. You may also consider consulting a board-certified allergist or an occupational medicine specialist who can recommend personal and environmental testing.

                                                              Common symptoms of exposure to poor IAQ


Signs of Exposure to Poor IAQ

In addition to tracking symptoms of exposure, you may also be able to identify IAQ-related problems by looking at your everyday environment, lifestyle, and activities. In general, the following signs are often linked to exposure of poor IAQ:

  • unusual, fowl, and noticeable odors;

  • stale, musty, or stuffy air;

  • a distinguishable lack of air movement;

  • damaged flue pipes and chimneys;

  • unvented combustion air sources for gas-fueled space heaters, gas-fueled furnaces, charcoal grills, gas-fueled

  • ranges, portable kerosene heaters, and wood stoves;

  • excessive moisture and humidity;

  • water-damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets; and

  • the presence of active molds and mildew.

NOTE: The best way to detect indoor odors is to step outside for a few minutes, and then upon reentering the property, note if there are noticeable odors.

Of particular importance is looking for visible signs of problems with a property’s ventilation. In addition to some of the signs listed above, look for the following as an indication of inadequate ventilation:

  • moisture condensation on windows or walls;

  • dirty central heating and air cooling equipment;

  • deferred maintenance related to the HVAC system; and

  • and areas where books, footwear, cupboards, or other items become moldy.

If an inadequate amount of outdoor air enters an indoor space, pollutants can accumulate to levels that pose health, safety, and comfort problems.

If you or anyone you know suspect exposure to indoor air pollution an effort should be made to identify and remove the source. Sometimes treatment for IAQ-related problems is simply eliminating exposure to the source of pollution. IAC2 Certified Consultants are trained in the areas of IAQ and can perform specialized environmental testing to help you identify potential sources of pollution.

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