A simple Indoor air pollution definition is harmful gases and particles from inside. It is categorized into 3 groups: chemical (CO, CO2, VOCs, Rn), biological (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites), and physical contamination (hair, fiber, dust, pest). Continuous exposure will have adverse health effects particularly to our lungs. EPA indicates that the levels of indoor air pollutants may be 2-5 times higher than outdoor. In extreme cases, indoor pollutants may even be 100 times higher than outdoors. Alarming figure considering we spend 90% of our time inside our home.
10 Most Common Indoor Air Pollution Sources
- Biological Pollutants
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Pesticides Radon (Rn)
- Indoor Particulate Matter (PM2.5)
- Secondhand Smoke
- Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Signs of Bad Indoor Air Quality
Poor IAQ is known to reduce productivity, irritation, impair learning and mood swings. It is also linked with sick building syndrome where a person is feeling ill from building-related diseases. An airborne contaminant is often overlooked because most people will associate their illness with other factors. If you find yourself sneezing or coughing a lot despite the home is clean and tidy, your breathing space might be compromised. Here are a few symptoms of bad air quality in the home.
- Excessive sneezing
- Red eyes
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- Headache/ Migraines/ Dizziness
How To Test Air Quality In Your Home
There is plenty of indoor air quality testing equipment that would do the job. From air quality monitor, carbon monoxide detectors, DIY home test kit, home mold test, formaldehyde test kit, allergen test kit, organic vapors test kit, lead test kit, and sat-home radon test. Even though each testing procedure might be slightly different, the result is reliable and accurate. With that, you can do your own evaluation on what is the next steps required.
Indoor Air Quality Monitor
A small, simple plug and play electronic device that is always on. Air Quality Monitor is exactly how it sounds. A monitoring device that checks the air quality level in a home. They are usually installed on the wall, power socket or table that you can leave it unattended. Most models come with a built-in screen and newer model relies on the mobile app.
How it works – The device sensor will automatically test the levels of pollution inside your home. The output is live and will instantaneously display on a digital screen or through an app. Depending on the price bracket, it will cover most non-gas indoor particulates. The more expensive one covers chemicals like CO, CO, VOCs, and even room humidity level.
How much does it cost – $69-350. Most good ones start from $100 and the top-spec starts from $250. It might seem costly, but this is a one-off investment that will last for ages.
Our recommendation – Awair Glow Air Quality Monitor + Smart Plug. It is easy to use, inexpensive and works through a mobile app. Beside detecting standard indoor particulates, it can also track toxins, chemicals, and CO2. As an added bonus value, it can also detect room temperature and humidity level. There more cool features in Awair Glow like a night light, Alexa/ Google Smart Integrations and so much more. Click on the product link to find out.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Also known as Carbon Monoxide detector, it is a device that detects and alarm you when the CO level is high. Carbon monoxide (CO) is the notorious silent killer. It is tasteless, odorless, and colorless byproduct of fuel combustion. It will kill you if you’re over inhaled to large amounts of the toxic gas. Gas burning stoves are the most common contributor, followed by gas furnaces, fireplace, and gas heater.
How it works – Think about it as an alarm. It measures CO concentration in space and will alert you when a certain level is reached. The alarming part is critical because CO is odorless and you will not know its existence until it is too late. If your home does not have any fuel-burning appliances, this is actually a redundant product. Go with a good air quality monitor instead.
How much does it cost – $10-25. Inexpensive to say the least but the coverage is not great. You might need to install a few different sets to cover an entire home. A small price to pay for a piece of mind.
Our recommendation – Go with something cheap and dependable like First Alert CO605 Carbon Monoxide Detector. It is battery operated (2 AA) that will work during power outages. You will only need to change the batteries every 6-12 months. The 85-decibel beeping sounds are loud even if you place it high in the ceiling. The device’s sensor will last up to 5 years and will alert you when it does expire.
Mold Test Kit
If you are experiencing mold symptoms like stuffy nose or cough, there are lots of home mold test kit online that is cheap and super easy to test. It is useful to check if you are indeed suffering from mold poisoning. The reports with clearly list down the types of mold you are exposed to, the toxicity level, and other relevant information. You can then consult with an expert for further examination or perform mold remediation.
How it works – First, find places with dark patches of mold. A damp area like Bathroom or basement is a good place to start. If you can’t find one, use your nose to hunt for musty odor smell. Next, follow the instruction carefully and make sure you do not skip any steps. It will either ask you to collect air or surface samples from a specific source. Once you have collected all the samples, repack all the materials them in the same mailing box along and mail it back to the same address. You will receive the test result within 7-14 days that is usually via email.
How much does it cost – $8-250. All price inclusive of lab fees with shipping. The cheaper ones can only test surface mold and the expensive one is for airborne mold. The price varied depending on the number of tests, expert consultation, and the time required to get back the report. Regardless of which type of equipment you opt for, it is still cheaper than hiring a mold consultant that usually cost between $300-500.
Our recommendation – If you manage to spot some mold patches, then you should probably go for the cheaper kit. If your concern is airborne mold, Consider getting an indoor air test kit from Home Air Check. Useful but very expensive even though the lab analysis and test result are included. If there is no visible mold and you are not suffering from any mold illness, you may skip this for now.
6 times deadlier than house fire and carbon monoxide combined. Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas from uranium. It is also odorless, tasteless, colorless, and deadly in the long-term. It is typically found in soil and enter to our home through the foundation, walls, cracks on floor or pipes. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for a non-smoker.
How it works – Activate and leave it on for the device to monitor the concentration level of the radon. The result will be displayed on the built-in digital screen or via a mobile app. Plug-in models will work similarly as a CO alarm.
How much does it cost – $13-200. The cheap one is all radon home test kit that can only be used one time. Radon detector is usually above $150 and the better ones can even detect humidity and other radiations.
Our recommendation – Airthings Corentium Home Radon Detector is our top pick. It is inexpensive, portable and easy to use with an accurate result within 24 hours. Unlike a charcoal tester kit, it can be reused and will continue to monitor radon in your home. Radon test kit is only fraction of radon detector cost but it will take weeks to get the result. The result is also debatable because radon levels fluctuate from time to time and this is only a one-off test.
Other Indoor Home Test Kits
The following trio alternate indoor air quality test kit that works but hardly anyone uses it. The test subject is uncommon and is not applicable to every household.
Organic Vapor Test Kits
A test kit that can identify around 70 types of different chemicals compounds found at home. There are many hazardous organic chemicals that cannot be seen through our naked eyes. The most notorious one is the cancer-linked Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This toxic gas is typically emitted from paints, cleaning product, and plastic coating. Much like the mold kit from home air check, the device will measure airborne particulates within its vicinity. The reason there are few people using this test kit is that a) it is expensive, b) an air quality monitor will be able to detect most of the organic chemicals.
Lead Test Kits
Probably the least use equipment here, lead test kit depends on either paint, dust, or soil for samples. The sample will be sent to the lab for analysis and you should expect the result in 7-10 working days. Most people would skip this because it is more common in older homes with lead-contained paints or piping. Still, lead poison can stunted growth, cause liver and kidney failure. If you have little one at home, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Formaldehyde Test Kits
Detect the concentration level Formaldehyde in a room within an hour. Usually comes with a color chart bar where you could compare how safe your home is from Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde (CH₂O) is an occurring organic compound that will cause various allergic reactions and even cancer. Unlike the other 2, we actually encourage users to buy this DIY Test kit because it is cheap (less than $15). Again, if you have an air quality monitor at home, you probably could skip this.
How Do I Fix The Air Quality In My Home?
Depends on your air quality test result, there are few simple things you can do to get clean, fresh air in the house. First and foremost, get a good HEPA air purifier to rectify on your indoor air pollution problem. It with suck in all the airborne particulates and trap them onto the mechanical filter like activated carbon or HEPA filter. This includes pollutants like dust, mold, pollen, smoke, radon, formaldehyde, and VOCs. A proven, reliable, and cost-effective way of providing continuous clean air throughout the day with just a flip of a switch.
If you want to hold on to more purchase for now, here are few non-costly methods to keep your home safe. Consider improving your room ventilation by opening more windows and door. Not applicable if you are staying in an industrial area or near a highway. Also, avoid using gas appliances like a stove or replace them with electrical appliances instead. This would greatly reduce the CO level in the home. Use as many eco-friendly household products as possible to reduce the toxic emissions footprint. Clean your HVAC air filter every 2-3 months or so fewer allergens will be spread into the air. Finally, fix any cracks on the floor or wall to reduce the number of incoming radon.