Apartment Living: What Threats to Indoor Air Quality Should Apartment Dwellers Know About?
With raised awareness of the fact that indoor air pollutant can pose a significant health risk, more and more people want to learn about the steps they can take to improve the air quality inside their homes. Most discussions about indoor air quality, unfortunately, tend to focus on single-family homes and commercial properties.
In most states, around 10 percent of people live in apartments. In places like New York, that number is far closer to a quarter. The millions of apartment dwellers across the United States don’t simply face the same air quality hazards as those living in single-family homes; they are also vulnerable to unique hazards, while at the same time often having significantly less control over their living spaces.
Apartment dwellers are not, thankfully, powerless in the struggle against poor air quality. What do you need to know about the most common threats — and the measures you can implement to enjoy healthier indoor air inside low-rise, mid-rise, or high-rise apartment buildings?
What Are the Most Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality in Apartments?
If you have ever been at all worried about outdoor air pollution, you may be shocked to learn that indoor air quality tends to be between two and five times worse than the air outdoors — and in some homes, the air can even be 100 times more polluted.
The most common threats to indoor air quality in apartments include:
Indoor Air Quality: Are Apartment Dwellers Exposed to Different Risks?
While all the sources of air pollution that people who live in apartments are exposed to also affect those living in single-family homes, you do have some unique concerns if you live in an apartment. Living in an apartment, you do not have as much freedom to remodel your home to promote a healthier indoor environment. If you rent your apartment, you may have to battle an unwilling landlord to have the HVAC system replaced or repaired in order to improve air circulation and quality.
Recently-constructed buildings are more energy efficient, and may appear to be extremely desirable places to live, but their increased energy efficiency negatively impacts air circulation, increasing indoor air pollution in the process. In some cases, so-called “sick building syndrome” results.
The fact that you are surrounded by neighbors when you live in an apartment also poses a threat. Mold is present throughout the environment, and outdoors, this will not typically cause a problem to anyone who does not have a severe mold allergy. When a mold infestation takes hold indoors, however, long-term exposure to these filamentous fungi can cause serious health complications.
Molds thrives in humid and wet conditions, and that means that leaks in pipes or roofs, condensation, flooding, wet clothes, and damp basements all pose a risk. It is easy for a mold infestation to take hold in one unit when someone persistently air dries their laundry or has low hygiene standards — and when it does, mold spores will easily be able to spread to other apartments through the HVAC system. Unless immediate action is taken, the whole building could soon have a mold problem.
What Are the Possible Health Consequences of Indoor Air Pollution?
Each specific pollutant is associated with its own set of health risk. The cumulative effects of poor indoor air quality have also been established, however. In the short-term, poor indoor air quality may result in frustrating symptoms like:
People who have these symptoms when they spend a lot of time at home, but find that they subside when they leave their apartment, may be suffering from sick building syndrome. Used to describe a situation in which it is clear that something within a building is making its occupants sick, no single cause has been identified. Sick building syndrome appears to be related to the presence of mold, hazardous construction materials, Volatile Organic Compounds, and poor air circulation.
Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution has more severe risks. Being around dust mites or mold for prolonged periods of time may cause you to develop an allergy, but your risk of developing heart disease, lung conditions, and even cancer have all been linked to indoor air pollution, including exposure to mold spores, as well. The importance of improving indoor air quality can, as such, not be overstated.
What Factors Should You Consider When You Look for a New Apartment?
Are you thinking about moving, and actively looking for a new apartment? Great news! Apartment hunting offers the perfect opportunity to reduce your exposure to indoor air pollutants when you are at home. It would be optimal for your new apartment to feature:
What Can You Do to Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Your Apartment?
People who live in an apartment can, thankfully, take numerous proactive steps to boost the quality of the air they inhale when they are at home. Some of the things you can do to improve your indoor air are both free and easy, while others require you to make some investments.
How many of these common-sense measures do you already take? If you’ve missed any, you will immediately boost the air quality inside your apartment by:
If you are willing to invest in cleaner air, you may also consider:
People who are renting apartments should additionally consider addressing any concerns they have about systemic threats to the air quality with their landlords.
What Should You Do If You Believe Your Apartment Building Has a Mold Infestation?
Severe mold infestations are often immediately visible — often within damp and humid spaces such as your bathroom or kitchen walls, around your washing machine, or in the case of condensation, around window frames. You will not always be able to identify a mold problem so readily, however, and other signs that mold is present in your building include:
Tenants who know that they have mold in their apartment buildings should immediately notify their building management team. Failing to do this may cause you to be held liable for damage to your own unit as well as, potentially, other units. You, additionally, risk not just your health but the health of your neighbor neighbors by ignoring the problem.
If, on the other hand, building management is ignoring your concerns, you may opt to have a professional mold inspection carried out. MI&T can help you with that. As an independent and nationwide mold inspection only company, we carry out a thorough visual mold inspection. We then take air samples, which are subsequently lab tested. With MI&T’s full mold inspection report in hand, you will be able to show your building management team precisely what is going on in your unit, allowing you to ask them to take concrete mold remediation steps.