One of the best ways to determine the state of your indoor air quality comes from performing an air particle test. Simply put, an air particle test can determine the levels of allergens, pollutants and contaminants present in your indoor air. This snapshot can be especially useful if you or someone in your household suffers from allergies, asthma or other breathing difficulties, or if you’ve noticed that your air doesn’t smell or feel as fresh as you think it could.
Every indoor environment is different when it comes to possible pollutants. Even within one home, the air quality can differ from room to room, and is influenced by things like pets, the square footage of carpet in your home, the rate at which outdoor air flows inside, cooking habits, region-specific pollens and allergens, and personal habits like wearing shoes indoors and how often you regularly vacuum. But any home, regardless of location, can harbor unhealthy indoor air, and air particle tests can help you identify the problems and figure out the next best steps.
Specifically, air particle tests can measure combustibles (from fuel or wood-burning fires); volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from new furniture, cleaning products, carpet, paints, solvents and tobacco; organic contaminants like mold and mildew; pesticides (likely tracked in from outside); and pet dander and/or pest droppings; and certain tests can even measure whether asbestos and radon are present.
According to an article by the Healthy Facilities Institute, fine particle counts indoors should, as a rule of thumb, be half of what they are outdoors. But due to the hundreds of different combinations of variables that make up each indoor space, having a “typical” reading across the board isn’t really possible. It’s probably more accurate to determine what a typical reading is for that particular environmental region, and use that as a reference point.
Once you determine the state of your indoor air, you can come up with a plan to get rid of the sources that are producing the contaminants. Many of these steps will include making lifestyle changes, or simply changing the products you use around your home.
- Airing out your home more often or — depending on your issues and region — improving the sealing to keep outdoor air out.
- Regular vacuuming of your carpet and floors with a machine that has a sealed HEPA filter also can go a long way in not only removing set-in contaminants from your indoor space, but preventing them from escaping and thus re-contaminating your air.
- Cleaning with natural products instead of harsh chemical cleaners can mean reducing the amount of harmful fumes that are emitted into your home.
- Removing shoes at the door and not wearing them inside can reduce the chances of tracking in pesticides and other pollutants.
- Properly grooming your pet or designating certain areas “pet-free zones” can help cut down on dander.
- Reduce the chances of VOCs off-gassing into your home: look for eco-friendly options for paint and carpet, and either let new furniture air out (away from the home, perhaps in a garage or covered patio) before bringing it into the home. Some people opt to buy antique or consignment furniture, which has a much less chance of off-gassing.
- Investing in a high-quality air purifier that has the capability to not only freshen your indoor air, but actually destroy up to 99% of contaminants (including VOCs) in the air and on surfaces.