Indoor Air Quality in our Homes-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Indoor Air Quality in our Homes

When the cold weather comes, we shut our windows and doors at home and spend much of our time inside.  This often results in a higher incidence of air quality related issues.  Popular solutions (and possibly recent holiday gifts) are personal air cleaners, designed to improve our indoor air quality and alleviate our symptoms.  Choosing the right response to your problem is sometimes difficult, so I hope to supply you with some resources for this task.

Consider first of all, the nature of the problem.  Most commonly, the concern is of mold, dust, pollen or other irritants that are essentially particulates, so you will want to find something to specifically address those materials.  A filtration unit with HEPA filters is your best bet.  Units relying on electrostatic charges (you will notice the zapping!) often emit ozone, an irritant gas, into the air, and frequently make the problem worse!  Units with only charcoal filters will remove certain gases but have no effect on particulates.  Consider the size of the space you wish to address as well, as this will determine the unit's size.  Research the options before you buy!

Sometimes the problem is low humidity.  Inexpensive humidity gauges measure this-levels below 30% often lead to indoor air complaints as low humidity dries out our nasal passages.  Humidification added to your heating system will help.  Personal humidifiers, in your bedrooms, for example, will help, though be sure to change the water frequently and keep the unit clean.


By: Mark Banister, markb2@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-1493