In this article, we will give the best methods and explain how to test at-home air quality. Wait! Have you ever walked into a room and felt like you were being attacked by the one thing you can’t see but need to survive? You guessed it. I’m talking about the good old gaseous mixture, air.
Studies have shown that low indoor air quality can spur discomfort, allergies, worsening asthma, respiratory problems, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, sneezing, sinus congestion, irritations, and more. That’s just a glimpse of the effects of indoor air pollution.
If you notice any of these symptoms or suspect that you may benefit from testing the quality of your air, this article is just for you.
Why Monitor At-Home Air Quality?
That’s a great question! Understanding the indoor air quality of your environment can help you monitor and reduce common pollutants that can lead to health concerns.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it has been proven that the levels of indoor air pollutants are often two to five times higher than outdoor levels of the same pollutants. Shockingly, sometimes indoor levels can exceed outdoor levels by over 100 times.
Not only does poor at-home air quality threaten the health and safety of a home’s occupants, but it also hinders productivity. So how can testing help?
Learn About Pollutants. What Do You Monitor?
At-home air quality monitors conveniently test the quality of the air in your space. These monitors accurately evaluate at-home air quality by detecting the presence and concentration of common air pollutants that could elevate your risk of health concerns.
Several at-home air quality monitors are available at a wide range of price points. Not to worry, we have reviewed some of the best at-home air quality monitors available to help you make the best possible decision.
Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said, “Know thy enemy.” Accordingly, you can’t effectively monitor your air for pollutants without knowing what you’re evaluating. Some pollutants though are more harmful than others, so monitors often prioritize the detection of those that may negatively impact your health with increased exposure. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most common pollutants.
- Biological Pollutants, including dust mites, airborne bacteria, mold, and dander.
- Chemical Pollutants, such as radon, lead, and volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde.
- Combustion Pollutants, such as the notorious carbon monoxide and tobacco smoke. Carbon dioxide levels also need to be monitored as they can also cause serious health problems.
At-Home Air Quality Testing For Biological Pollutants.
Most of us consider ourselves pretty clean, so how do biological pollutants enter our homes anyway?
Mold is a fungus that grows in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. If your favorite subject was biology, you might remember that hyphae reproduce by dispersing tiny spores into the air, which land on damp surfaces and grow. We frequently inhale or touch these spores leading to sneezing, runny nose, eye irritations, skin rashes, and more.
Unfortunately, some indoor air quality monitors do not test for mold, so you’ll need to purchase an at-home mold test kit for that. Most consist of a petri dish filled with a substance that facilitates mold growth. Leave the dish open to the air for a while and then close the cap for the prescribed incubation time. If there was mold present in the air when the dish was open, you’ll be able to see mold growing in the petri dish by the end of the test period.
Mold is almost always present in the air in tiny amounts though, and this test is incapable of providing the concentration of mold particulates in the air. The only way to know when the concentration of mold is too high or unhealthy is when you perceive a musty smell accompanied by visible signs of mold (black, white, or brownish coating).
Dust mites, pollen, and airborne bacteria can also contaminate our air indoors, but usually can’t be detected by at-home air quality monitors. The best way to keep their concentration levels low is by using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner to keep your room humidity below 50 percent.
At-Home Air Quality Testing For Chemical Pollutants.
At-home chemical pollutants (usually formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds) can be found in paints, cleaners, stored fuels, building materials, wood preservatives, furnishings, and more.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms in the soil and moves up from the ground into our indoor spaces. There are special discounted radon test kits that you can purchase online for $15 and $25, depending on whether you want the short-term or the long-term test kit, respectively.
The good news is that at-home air quality monitors can effectively detect the presence of some of these chemical pollutants in the air.
At-home Air Quality Testing For Combustion Pollutants.
There are three important combustion pollutants you should consider testing for, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and tobacco smoke.
These pollutants are by-products of the combustion process and can compete with oxygen in the respiratory system, often leading to asphyxiation or suffocation.
Many at-home air quality monitors can detect the presence and measure the levels of combustion pollutants in the air.
What is AQI, And How Does It Work?
The United States Air Quality Index (AQI) is the index for daily air quality reporting developed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It factors in all of the common air pollutants and tells you how clean or polluted the air is on a scale from zero to 500.
Basically, the higher the AQI value, the higher the pollution, as well as the threat it poses to our health. The EPA has set an AQI value of 100 as the national standard to protect public health. Therefore, locations with AQIs below 100 are satisfactory and their inhabitants should suffer no additional health implications. Locations with AQIs of 100 or higher are considered unhealthy for certain sensitive groups of people. Locations whose AQIs greatly exceed 100 indicate unhealthy conditions for everyone. Below is a representation of the Air Quality Index for Ozone and Particle Pollution.
Do At-Home Air Quality Monitors work?
Yes! At-home air quality monitors work well, and they can help you accurately detect and monitor the levels of common pollutants and other air conditions inside your home in real-time.
While at-home air quality monitors may be somewhat limited in their testing abilities. The best way to be certain of the quality of air in your space is to measure the concentration of pollutants both inside and outside of the building. Remember, outdoor conditions can greatly impact indoor conditions.
While we may not pay it much attention, the air in our homes and offices plays a major role in our lives. Common air pollutants like dust mites, mold, bacteria, formaldehyde, lead, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other volatile organic compounds can contaminate the air we breathe and pose serious health problems.
Periodically testing and monitoring at-home air quality protects all of a home’s inhabitants. Take a look at some of the best at-home air quality monitors available.