How to Identify Indoor Air Quality Problems

Once they are identified, you can do something about them.

By Josh Peterson

Los Angeles, CA, USA


People complain when smog lies thick over a city. They complain when a factory or plant pumps curling, black smoke into our air. It is ironic then that the air quality of our homes often gets overlooked. The majority of our breathing is done inside. And our inside air can be just as polluted. How can you tell if your air is quality air? According to the EPA, there are three basic methods.

  1. Canary in a Coal Mine

    Are you feeling ill? Do you have unexplained health problems after:
    1. Moving
    2. Remodeling
    3. Refurnishing
    4. Pesticide Application

    It may be more than just coincidence. Talk to your family doctor. He or she may need to recommend you to an allergist or occupational medicine specialist in order to get to the bottom of these health concerns.

  2. Know Your Air Quality Enemies

    Go through your home and look for sources of potential indoor air pollution.

    From EPA

    Although the presence of such sources does not necessarily mean that you have an indoor air quality problem, being aware of the type and number of potential sources is an important step toward assessing the air quality in your home.

    Some of those sources may include:
    1. Pressed wood products, like particle board
    2. Dirty filters
    3. Paints and varnishes
    4. Mold/Areas of water damage
    5. Dust
    6. Cleaning products

  3. Inadequate Ventilation

    We often talk about sealing up that old thermal envelope in order to increase energy efficiency. And yes, you should try and tighten your envelope. At the same time, you need to find a way to ventilate your air and replace it with fresh air. Here are some signs of a poorly ventilated home.
    1. Moisture condensation on windows/walls
    2. Smell and/or stuffy air
    3. Dirty central heating and cooling equipment
    4. Mold growth on books or shoes or other items

Hopefully, your home has very few indoor air quality problems. An ounce of prevention is all it takes to keep it that way.

More on Green Air Quality
How Indoor Air Quality Affects Your Health
What You Need to Know About Caulking and Health
How to Use a Radon Test Kit



The Canary Club is an educational advisory group with a team of medical advisors headed by Richard Shames, M.D.