An In-Depth Guide to Testing Your Indoor Air Quality


Everyone faces dangers on a daily basis as you go about your life. Driving in cars, flying in planes, some recreational activities and being exposed to environmental pollutants all carry different degrees of risk. Some thing you can avoid, while others you cannot. Indoor air pollution and quality is a risk you can control and do something about.

Indoor Air Quality Problems

Indoor air pollution comes from a variety of sources. If gases or particles are released into the air and not ventilated out of your home adequately, this can lead to problems with your home’s air quality. So what could be polluting the air in your home?

Anything found outdoors can come in, where they join with other irritants to wreak havoc on your health. Fumes from combustion devices and gas-fired appliances and allergens such as pet dander, dust mites and mold are often big sources of trouble. In fact, space heaters, ranges, ovens, stoves, furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters all release gases and particulates into the air.

Symptoms of Bad Air Quality

Often, respiratory problems are the most noticeable symptoms of problems with the air in your home. Bad air can trigger coughing, chest tightness, sore throat, watery or itchy eyes, shortness of breath and even asthma attacks. If your home has chronically bad air you may a have frequent headaches, long lasting colds, bronchitis as well as asthma.

Another red flag is if you are feeling sick at home but then better when you are out of the house. If you find mold in your home, that’s another clue that you’re indoor air quality may be bad. When you look around heating and cooling units, do you notice extra dirt? That could also indicate an issue with ventilation.

Does the air in your home smell old or stuffy? Is the air humid? Is there an odor you can’t seem to get rid of? Well, then it might be time to take things into your own hands and test your indoor air quality.

Types of Testing Kits

You can find do-it-yourself home air quality testing kits in a variety of places these days. It’s relatively cheap and simple to do. The results of these tests can help you determine the best way to get rid of any airborne pollutants that may be present in your home.

There are a few different kind of testing kits. The first is an Allergen test kit, which will detect and identify common indoor allergens like pollen, dust mites, mold spores, insect fragments and fibers from things like fiberglass and skin cells. You can even buy dust mite test kits or fiberglass test kits if those allergens are of concern for you.

Another type of testing kit is a mold test kit. These kits identify varying types of airborne mold in basements, bathrooms, crawl spaces, attics or in carpeting, just to name a few. If you’re concerned about toxic mold, there are specialized test kits available for those as well. A mold test basically gives you a snapshot of the amount of mold particles in your home. You may have to test at different times of year and different locations in your home to truly get an accurate glimpse into the mold problem in your home.

You can also get formaldehyde test kits. Airborne formaldehyde is a possible human carcinogen and these tests can identify harmful concentrations of this substance in your air. Formaldehyde is in every home. Sources include laminate floors, foam insulation, carpet, cigarettes, cabinets, drapery fabrics, pressed wood products and gas stoves or kerosene heaters.

Organic Vapor Test kits are also available. These can detect over 40 organic chemicals and over 50 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in your home. These chemicals and compounds can lead to negative health effects including headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, liver and kidney damage and an increased risk of cancer. Gas, potpourri, contaminated drywall and even paint can contain VOCs and organic chemicals.

Finally, there are lead test kits available that detect toxic lead on the surfaces in your home. Exposure to lead particles can have serious health consequences for your family.

How to Test

The directions in kits are easy to follow. After you chose the kit that most closely fits your needs you take a sample of your air or other surfaces in your home and send it to the lab the testing kit has partnered with. You will then receive a full report that tells you exactly what is lurking in your home’s air. Many times the report will also advise you about the actions you need to take to remedy the air quality problems in your home.

Why Test Your Air?

The biggest benefit to testing your indoor air quality is knowledge gained. With that knowledge you then gain power over the quality of the air in your home. These test are an inexpensive way to reduce the chances of health problems for you family in the future.


Photo by Kathleen Dagostino via Flickr CC License


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