How Does Tobacco Smoke Affect Your Home?
Let’s start with the facts…
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) contains about 4,000 chemicals, including 200 known poisons such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, as well as 43 carcinogens.
1. 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year
2. 35,000 to 50,000 heart disease deaths in non-smokers a year
3. 150,000 to 300,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infections in children under 18 months of age each year
4. Between 200,00 and one million asthmatic children to worse in their condition
So what does this have to with your home…
Environmental tobacco smoke better known to most as “secondhand smoke” is a major indoor air pollutant. Smoke travels throughout your entire home. It cannot be confined to only one room even with the door shut. Smoke travels through doors, windows, and even cracks. While opening your windows and using fans may help, it does not eliminate smoke from your home.
As smoke travels throughout your home, you can definitely expect it to travel through your HVAC system. Once pulled into your system ETS is then distributed throughout every room in your home. Containments are pulled into your HVAC system and re-circulated 5 to 7 times per day, on average (EPA). Therefore, you and your family are constantly and continuously breathing in secondhand smoke throughout the entire day.
ETS is not only circulated but it can also be found settling within your home. Due to the complex mixture of chemicals in tobacco smoke, certain chemicals like nicotine can be psychically seen and found on things in your home. You probably have seen a yellow film that stains your walls or a brownish residue on fabrics like your curtains. These are all evident signs that ETS is present and building within your home. While these signs can be visibly seen by the human eye, the chemical build up from secondhand smoke in your ductwork is not as easily identified.
Over time continuous re-circulation of ETS begins to cause buildup of nicotine and other chemicals inside your ductwork. It creates and leaves a buildup of residue that is oily and sticky in nature. Due to the residue’s consistency, other irritants such as dust and pollen stick to and build up in your ductwork. Every time air is passed through your ductwork, it passes over the residue picking up particles of the nicotine and other chemicals as well as the dust and pollen; and then circulates it throughout your entire home. This process adds to and causes an increase in indoor air pollution.
How to tell if ETS is building in your ductwork?
Firstly, if you see build up and residue on things in your home such as, walls, curtains and other things then it is safe to assume that it is in your ductwork. Another good sign to follow is to listen to your nose. If every time you turn on your system and you smell an increase or strong tobacco odor then you can expect to find a buildup in your ductwork.
How can air duct cleaning help?
If you or someone in your home smokes or you have just purchased a home and the previous owners smoked; you have your air ducts cleaned. Your ductwork is the lungs of your home and if it is contaminated then so is the air you and your family are breathing. Air duct cleaning will remove all containments including tobacco smoke residue from inside your ductwork system. Once the system is cleaned and all containments are fully removed, your system is then sanitized. The sanitizer will help to kill remaining bacteria and eliminate any lingering odors. A clean ductwork system is the only way to ensure full removal of ETS buildup.
The National Air Duct Cleaners Association recommends having your air ducts cleaned every three to five years; however, if you or someone in your home smokes it is highly recommended to have your air ducts cleaned more frequently to ensure a better indoor air quality for you and your family.
What is Indoor Air Quaility and How Does It Affect Your Health?
Indoor air quality refers to the air quality within your home in relationship to indoor air pollutants, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of you and your family. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) people in industrialized nations spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors and for infants, the elderly, people with chronic diseases, and most urban residents the proportion of time spent indoors is probably higher. With such a large proportion of our time being spent indoors, it is essential that we consider the quality of air we are breathing during this time.
Did you know?
The air inside U.S. homes may be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and in some cases as much as 100 times more polluted than outdoor air (EPA).
The American Lung Association sites the following as the most common indoor air pollutants:
- Biological Pollutants
o Molds, Bacteria, Dust, Viruses, Pollen, Animal Dander, Particles from Dust Mites
- Combustion Sources
o Fuel Burning Stoves, Furnaces, Fireplaces, Heaters and Water Heaters
Using oil, gas, coal, wood, or other fuel
- Tobacco Products
o Including second hand smoke
- Building Materials
Found in roofing and flooring materials, and insulation for ceilings, walls, pipes, and heating equipment
o Naturally occurring radioactive gas that enters the home through cracks in the foundation floor and walls, drains and other openings
o Found in adhesive agents for many materials used within a home
Including;: carpets; upholstery; furnishing; particle board; plywood
Did you know?
The Environmental Protection Agency listed poor indoor air quality as one of the five biggest environmental risks to public health.
Indoor air pollutants can be detrimental to you and your family’s health. As cited by the EPA your lungs are the most common site of injury by indoor air pollutants. Poor indoor air quality can cause and contribute to the development of lung infections, lung cancer, and chronic lung diseases. In addition to the effect on your lungs, other symptoms can occur as a result of indoor air pollutants such as; headaches; dry eyes; nasal congestion; nausea; and fatigue (American Lung Association). According to the EPA, 90% of common colds are caught while indoors, breathing indoor air.
As you can see it is important to protect you and your family from exposure to indoor air pollutants. The American Lung Association states that the best way to defend against indoor air pollution is to find ways to keep the pollutants from being added to the air in the first place. While it is impossible to control everything around you and everything that is entering into your home, there are precautionary measures that you can take.
1. Keep doors and windows closed as often as possible.
2. Refrain from smoking in your home.
3. Keep pets out of your home as much as possible.
4. Use high quality air filters and replace them regularly.
5. Maintain regular air duct cleaning and inspection.
“Appropriate ventilation with clean fresh air can reduce levels of indoor air pollutants” (American Lung Association).
Having your air ducts cleaned will allow you and your family to breathe clean, fresh air and achieve proper ventilation in your home. Think of your heating and cooling system as the lungs of your home. It continuously takes air in and breathes air out. It is through your system’s breathing process that air is circulated throughout your duct work. Removal of dirt, debris, and other contaminants from your duct work is one of the most effective cleaning and decontamination methods for ensuring cleaner indoor air. A clear and clean ductwork system helps to ensure that air pollutants are not carried throughout your home but instead spreads fresh, clean air. A clean ductwork system also supports appropriate ventilation. Removal of contaminants provides air with a clear path to circulate. Clearing ductwork of containments not only improves but also, increases ventilation in your home. Therefore, routine air duct cleaning should become a part of your home’s regular maintenance in order to protect from and prevent indoor air pollutants.
Reduce your Allergy Symptoms this Summer
Summer is probably the first season that comes to mind when one thinks of allergies, and for good reason. Combined with the heat, summer allergens such as dust, pollen, and pet dander can cause some of the worst allergic reactions in sufferers and make what are supposed to be the best months of the year downright miserable. Prescription medications can help calm or prevent allergic reactions, but the best way to reduce summer allergies is to reduce your exposure to summer allergens. There are a number of simple ways to do this and, luckily, none of them require a visit to the doctor.
Understand Your Allergies
The first step towards reducing your exposure to allergens is to recognize the types of allergens that aggravate your symptoms. If you’re like most allergy sufferers in the United States you experience hay fever or asthmatic symptoms. These symptoms are a result of your body’s immune system releasing antibodies into your bloodstream. These antibodies in turn create histamine, the agent that acts on your eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs, and even gastrointestinal system to produce your allergy symptoms. The allergens that induce this reaction in your body are generally environmental allergens –airborne particles such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. It is virtually impossible to completely avoid these types of allergens. They exist inside and outside your home, at work, and anywhere else you might think of enjoying your summer months. Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the amount of environmental allergens you come into contact with.
Reduce In-Coming Pollutants
The easiest way to avoid contact with allergens inside your home is to keep your windows and doors closed. A clean air filter or air conditioner can help cut down your in-home exposure to allergens tremendously. If keeping your windows closed during the summer is not an option, invest in a good screen. Make sure you keep your window and door screens clean, too. Pollen that accumulates on your screen can be tracked into your home when you open and close the doors or windows.
Avoid Peak Pollen Hours
If you are particularly sensitive to pollen you may want to stay indoors during peak pollen times. Pollen counts tend to peak during the morning, and are especially high on dry, windy days. It’s best to avoid going outdoors until late afternoon or evenings, when the temperature has cooled off a bit.
Dry Clothes Inside
Inhaling pollen isn’t the only way to experience its affect. Pollen can also irritate your skin, causing dry, itchy rashes. Clothes, towels and bed sheets that are hung to dry outdoors can collect pollen spores and cause fairly severe allergy symptoms. It is best to use a clothes dryer if you can; if not, hang your clothes in the evening, when pollen counts are low.
Keep House Clean
There are other summer allergens beyond pollen you will probably want to avoid as well. Dust mites and pet dander can also cause severe reactions in allergy sufferers. Dust mites cause allergic reactions by producing waste products that irritate the linings of the nose, throat, and lungs when inhaled. The easiest way to control the amount of dust mites in your home is to dust surfaces and wash bedding and clothes often. Vacuuming a few times a week can also help reduce the amount of surface dust mites. Make sure your vacuum has a clean air filter, and if you develop symptoms while cleaning you might want to leave the house for a few hours or consider wearing a pollen-proof facemask.
Protect Your Sleep
Aside from simple cleaning, another way to avoid allergen symptoms in your home is to use mattress and furniture protectors. Mattress protectors are one of the best ways of protecting yourself against dust mites and pet dander. These impermeable covers provide a barrier between your mattress and allergy causing dust mites and dander. Covers are good options because they can be easily cleaned and reused regularly where as vacuuming or cleaning a mattress is difficult and doesn’t always remove harmful allergens. Waterproof mattress protectors are also available for children’s beds and baby cribs. These covers reduce the chance of your mattress developing troublesome mold growth, another cause of allergies.
Summertime can be particularly problematic for allergy sufferers. Runny noses, sneeze attacks, itchy eyes, and burning throats can easily ruin any fun-filled summer activity. By simply planning ahead, however, you can easily avoid most environmental allergens and have an exciting, allergy-free summer.