Why indoor air quality testing?
Believe it or not, there are chemicals in the air we breathe at home that can be harmful to our health. An indoor air quality test with “Home Air Check” tests your air for these chemicals and can identify these household pollutants so you can do something about it for cleaner, healthier air.
Sample Indoor Air Quality Test Report [PDF]
What are examples of those harmful chemicals?
Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs
These are harmful chemicals emitted by lots of the products and materials we have in our homes. Examples are paints, moth balls, cooking oils, vinyl flooring, upholstery, air fresheners, to name only a few.
Most VOCs can’t be detected by smell and many exacerbate or trigger asthma attacks. Concentrations of these chemicals can be up to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors.
While all VOCs have the potential to be harmful, there are a few common VOCs that can be particularly dangerous: Formaldehyde, benzene, and phenol are classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For a complete list of all 188 HAPs, click here to visit the EPA website.
Molds are microscopic fungi that can be found almost anywhere, both indoors and outdoors. Molds can grow on wood and insulation, in carpet, and even behind walls where they can continue to grow undetected. When excessive moisture accumulates in the home, mold growth will often occur. This moisture build-up can stem from plumbing leaks, from condensation in air conditioning and heating systems, or from ground water penetration. If damp or wet drywall becomes moist and is not dried out within two days, mold can be suspected to be growing within the walls, even if it is not visible.
When mold is in an active growth phase, it releases gases into the air called Mold Volatile Organic Compounds (MVOCs). Not all of these gases can be detected by smell.
When mold is present in large quantities, it can present a health hazard, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems in people who have sensitivities to mold. Molds produce allergens that cause hay fever-type symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and skin rashes. More severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. In addition, molds can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma and who are allergic to mold. Some people with chronic lung illnesses can develop mold infections in their lungs with prolonged exposure to mold in the home.
Formaldehyde is a chemical commonly used in building materials and numerous household products. At room temperature, formaldehyde vaporizes into the air, potentially causing serious health problems. It is also a by-product of combustion processes. When you burn things like natural gas, wood, gasoline, or tobacco, formaldehyde gas is released into the air. The most significant sources of formaldehyde in homes are: pressed wood products like particle board, plywood paneling, and MDF (medium density fiberboard); foam insulation; carpets; drapery fabrics; resins; glues; cigarettes; and un-vented, fuel-burning appliances like gas stoves or kerosene heaters.
Health effects of formaldehyde are eye, nose and throat burning and irritation; nausea; skin rashes; and breathing difficulties in some people. High concentrations of formaldehyde can trigger asthma attacks. Formaldehyde is also considered a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), classified as a Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) by the EPA.
Since formaldehyde is present in so many building materials and household products, every home should be tested for the presence of this toxic chemical.
The tobacco smoke test option of Home Air Check looks for specific chemical compounds known to be present in secondhand smoke, sometimes referred to as environmental tobacco smoke or passive smoke.
While tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, many of these chemicals can also be emitted by multiple sources, and are at such low levels that they can’t be monitored, or are not volatile enough (like nicotine) to stay in the air for very long. Thus, the ability to predict that tobacco smoke is present in the air, especially after smoking activity has ceased, becomes a much more difficult task. However, by utilizing sophisticated sample collection and analysis methodologies with detection limits in the 0.1 ng/L range, our tobacco smoke test is able to isolate specific chemical markers that have been determined by recent leading edge research to be present when tobacco is or has been burned. This makes it an invaluable test for anyone wanting to know if an apartment, home, or house they’re planning to occupy can be considered a smoke-free environment.
Secondhand smoke is classified as a “known human carcinogen” (cancer-causing agent) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization. Tobacco smoke is also linked to other kinds of diseases and even deaths. It is a known asthma trigger. Infants, children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to health risks from the effects of tobacco smoke
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
With Home Air Check, we offer an an advanced, accurate test that identifies over 400 VOCs, formaldehyde, growing mold, and secondhand smoke that may be lurking in your home’s air. To find out more, please contact us or call us at (610) 992 1252.