Poor air quality may appear to be a problem associated with pollution and the outdoors, but science is increasingly indicating that it might be the air within our homes that’s the problem. Studies reported by the federal EPA highlight a growing body of evidence suggesting that Americans may be at more risk of illness caused by poor air quality indoors than anywhere else. Often, this poor air quality is caused by the materials in our homes and quality of the building construction. There are steps you can take to rectify the issue and ensure that you are giving your health the level of air quality that it deserves.
Causes of poor air quality
The causes of poor air quality indoors are diverse in their sources. According to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, the most obvious causes are indoor combustion fuels, such as kerosene, oil, gas, wood and coal. These are easy-to-spot sources that are often used in conjunction with tools to mitigate their harm.
Less commonly known, and far more widespread, are the everyday materials within the home. Furniture, clothing, cabinetry are often produced using flame retardants, stain blockers, glues and dyes and paints, and over time, these start to break down and degrade air quality. There are steps you can take to improve this.
In many homes, some degree of air pollution is unavoidable. That’s simply the case with the nature of the objects we live with. However, there can be adjustments made to ensure that your home is given the best possible quality despite this. A simple way to initially do this is through opening windows. Allowing stale air to circulate out with new, fresh outdoors air, is important. Make sure you check local pollution advisories, however, in case there are any exceptional weather conditions creating high levels of outdoors pollution.
Secondly, you can introduce air filtration into the home. There are two ways to do this. The most effective is through air purifiers and dehumidifiers (humidity often encourages the growth of particles, like mold, that impact air quality). You may wish to invest in a HEPA-filter installed purifier, or something with UV and activated charcoal. This will effectively filter out particles from the air and improve the quality of your living within the home. Just make sure that you purchase a product powerful enough for the amount of rooms in your property; the larger the house, the more powerful an extractor you will need.
Despite this, there are often times when air quality in your home is so poor it cannot easily be rectified. This will often be due to deeper underlying issues – for example, mold within the structure of the property; the use of asbestos within the walls; or overall poor ventilation meaning that stale air remains uncirculated. As a tenant of another person’s property, you do have legal rights in these area. State and federal statutes cover the “implied warranty of habitability” which covers air quality, heat, water, and plumbing, and guarantee your rights with regards to air quality. If you feel there is a significant issue, such as mold, you have a right to challenge your landlord over this and, if not, take the matter to the courts.
As a homeowner, the issues is less clear cut. For a recently purchased property any surveys should have picked up the issue ahead of time – your report will usually be inclusive of any issues present in the home, and if you made a purchase on that information, it will be your responsibility.
In either situation, it’s important to be aware of your rights. Tenants have protections, as do home buyers who feel they weren’t provided with the full picture. Either way, ensuring you have proper ventilation and high air quality is important enough to be pursued through all avenues. If you’d like to find out more about your rights and how you can uphold them a reputable law firm will provide information on that and how you can uphold those rights.
My Green Montgomery is a project of the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. It is a service to help Montgomery County residents think and live in a way that safeguards and sustains the health of our people, our county, and the planet.