Something that has gained more attention in recent years in regards to home ownership is mold and the quality of the air inside -- rather than outside -- the home. Perhaps this is because people are spending more and more time inside their homes and are better able to recognize the importance of breathing clean, toxin-free air. Or, perhaps it is because we simply have access to more (and better) information today when it comes to air pollution, air quality, and the health effects that result from indoor air pollution. Whatever the reason, an important consideration when buying a home -- regardless of its age -- is the quality of the indoor air.
What are the benefits of an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test?
An IAQ test is able to measure the levels of pollen, mildew, mold spores, dust mites, and dust fibers within a home and alert you to those that are present and/or high enough to cause potential health problems. Most homeowners who get an IAQ test are concerned about mold within the home; fortunately, the test results will indicate which species were found and give corresponding counts for each so that there is good data to clarify the scope of the existing mold problem. Because most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, identifying and mitigating these contaminants can go a long way towards improving their health and quality of life, especially since we now know that indoor air is oftentimes more polluted than the air in a busy, industrialized city!
What health problems can arise from polluted indoor air?
Poor indoor air quality can cause a host of seemingly unrelated health problems in the short term, such as sinus/respiratory issues, lung and breathing troubles, headaches, unrelenting fatigue, dizziness, allergic reactions, and general irritation of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and skin. If one is exposed to poor indoor air for a long period of time, it can contribute to more menacing issues, such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer.
What causes poor indoor air quality in the first place?
There are a myriad of possible causes or contributing factors to indoor air pollution. Indoor building materials, home furnishings, and household products can emit toxins continuously, while certain activities within the home (such as the use of space heaters, pesticides, paints and/or cleaning products, etc.) only release pollutants intermittently. Weather conditions, such as increased precipitation and humidity, can cause indoor air pollution in the form of mold and mildew, and poor ventilation can also contribute to poor indoor air quality because it prevents outdoor air from getting in and circulating within the home.
Now that you are armed with loads of information pertaining to indoor air quality, the question remains: Should you get an IAQ test with your home inspection? The short answer is...yes! It is always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of yourself and your loved ones. However, if you are on the fence and are unsure of whether or not you're ready to take on the extra expense or hassle of an IAQ test, it's helpful to consider the risk level of all who will inhabit the home. Are you or your family members considered high risk? In other words, are you very young or elderly, chronically ill (especially with issues pertaining to respiratory health), an allergy sufferer, or suffering from cardiovascular disease? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should definitely consider an IAQ test before moving into your new home.