What are the top 3 questions our clients ask us about air quality and lung disease?
Question 1: I have a lung condition and was wondering what type of air cleaner I should buy to help me breathe easier at home?
Chris: There is very little evidence that suggests ANY air cleaner will help someone with asthma or other lung conditions. Use of an air cleaner equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter may reduce exposure to some allergens, however most studies do not show they benefit people with asthma. Using an air cleaner alone is not the best option to improving the air quality in your home.
You should first ensure that you've done all you can to solve the problem at the source (called source control). Examples include:
- Eliminating the source of the pollutants such as using low-volatile organic compound (VOC) cleaners;
- Installing a ventilation system in a basement hobby area;
- Properly venting a kitchen stove;
- Washing curtains or bedding regularly; and
- Installing a central vacuum system or using a HEPA filtered vacuum to eliminate fine dust and reduce particles.
However, in areas where particles—which typically come from heating sources—are present and cannot otherwise be eliminated, where individuals are particularly sensitive such as a bedroom, an air cleaner with a HEPA filter may be worthwhile.
Question 2: I live in an apartment building with a few tenants who smoke. Even though my windows are usually closed, I can still see and smell some smoke getting into my unit. What can I do—is it affecting my breathing?
Chris: This is a frustrating and quite common problem people should not have to suffer through. Before taking any actions that can affect your unit or other areas of the building, you should speak with your building's management for advice and information.
For now, you can try airing out your home when it is possible or practical (i.e. on a nice day with some wind coming into your unit) which can help lower the smoke found in your unit. An air cleaner with a HEPA filter can help remove some smoke particles (but not all).
If you're able to look into moving, consider smoke-free housing. Check online for information on the availability of these buildings. They are becoming more popular with tenants demanding buildings that prohibit smoking indoors.
Question 3: I wanted to get the air in my home tested by a professional. How do I go about doing this and is it necessary?
Chris: Testing the air in your home is possible, but usually not necessary. One way you can tell if there is an air quality problem is by monitoring how you feel while at home compared to when you're not. If you notice any symptoms when you're at home such as allergies, but they go away when you're away from your home for a day or two, there may be something at home causing this to happen.
You can get a professional air quality investigator to provide you with more information, such as whether there is a serious problem like mould. An air sample may tell you the kinds of mould in the air but the results will not tell you how to correct the problem. For example, if mould is visible, it should be removed using unscented dish soap and water followed by stopping the excessive moisture to avoid growth in the future. If you suspect an indoor air problem, do a visual inspection and remove obvious sources of contaminants first before turning to any testing or inspections.