When you think of air pollution, what image comes to mind? Emissions from car exhausts? Factories spewing thick smoke into the air? But did you know that indoor air quality or air pollution within the homes we live in is becoming a pressing national issue?
This is a result of the way our homes are built; houses are constructed to be able to restrict the free flow of air into and out of the building. This design helps to regulate indoor temperature but also has some unintended consequences.
Air pollutants released within the home tend to stay within it. And there are many potential sources of air pollution in a modern home. If any of these exist in the home, the chances that the substances will be dispersed after they are released are slim.
Consequently, the air in your home may contain between 2 and 100 times more pollutants than outside air. This is made worse by the fact that we spend vast amounts of time indoors. As much as 90% of our lives are spent inside one building or another.
What are the consequences of breathing this pollution-laden air? What are these sources of air pollution inside the home? What can you do to remove them or minimize their impact on your health?
Maintaining indoor air quality in a rental property
Indoor air quality challenges are harder to resolve in a rental home than in an owner occupied home because responsibility is not easily assigned in a rental. In order to resolve indoor air quality problems, landlords and tenants must find ways to cooperate.
Common indoor air pollutants
These are the air pollutants that landlords and tenants are most likely to be dealing with in a rental home.
- Mold and dampness: Mold and excessive moisture in the home are closely-linked problems. They are associated with many respiratory conditions. Dealing with high-ambient moisture can help to prevent or solve any problems with mold.
- Lead or lead-based paints: In the past, lead used to be a major additive in the paint. But the chemical has been banned because it is poisonous when inhaled or ingested. However, in many old homes, lead can still be found hiding behind the layers of old paint under the new coats of paint.
- Pests and pesticides: Pests lower indoor air quality, but the pesticides we use against pests can affect indoor air quality even more. Aerosols used to kill cockroaches and other bugs linger in the air and adhere to fabric and surfaces for weeks after they are used.
- Secondhand smoke: Non-smokers who inhale smoke from tobacco products are exposed to the around 7,000 chemicals that exist in an average stick of cigarette. This has been linked to stroke, heart disease, and lung disease in children and others. The simple way to deal with this is to avoid tobacco smoke inside the home.
- Radon: Radon is a naturally-occurring gas that is formed deep within the earth, but can leak upwards and into homes. Radon is radioactive and the second-leading cause of lung cancer. If the soil over which a home is built has significant radon concentrations, the gas will enter the home through cracks and openings.
- Miscellaneous pollutants: Other common sources of indoor air pollution include: formaldehyde in wood products, chemicals used in the manufacture of certain fabrics, personal care products (hair and body sprays), and asbestos in old insulation. Each of these, when present in the home, can endanger the health of the occupants.
For landlords: How to solve the problem
Below are some of the steps property owners can take to minimize the problem of poor indoor air quality in their rental properties.
- Remove all asbestos-based insulation from their building.
- Use pest-elimination methods that don’t introduce harmful chemicals into the home; implementing an integrated pest management solution is recommended.
- Test the air quality regularly to identify and resolve issues before they become problematic.
- Eliminate sources of high ambient moisture such as leaky pipes and stagnant water around the home.
- Address radon contamination and remove lead-based paint before putting a home on the market.
- Implement a system for monitoring indoor air quality through the tenant lease agreement.
For tenants: How to solve the problem
Although tenants may not be able to do anything about some of the potential sources of air pollution in a home they are renting, they can do the following:
- Ask if a landlord has taken care of any asbestos, lead, radon, and mold problems in the home before moving in and ensure this is contained in the contract.
- Make sure the landlord has in place a system for routine testing of the indoor air quality of the home.
- Discuss steps to report and resolve issues when they occur, as well as, a system for documenting the problem.
- Avoid the use of chemical pesticides in the home altogether or restrict their use to well-ventilated areas.
- Use a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Install fans in high moisture areas to remove moisture and prevent mold.
- Always have the stove fan turned on when using the cooktop space.
- Never hesitate to contact the landlord about any problems.
There you have it, how to ensure that the indoor quality in your rental is safe for you and your tenant.