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Should You Invest in an Air Purifier if you Have Children? What Type of Air Purifier is the Best?

Should You Invest in an Air Purifier if you Have Children? What Type of Air Purifier is the Best?

 

As awareness of the health impacts of poor indoor air quality grows, more and more people are purchasing air purifiers for their homes. If you, as a parent who wants to create the healthiest possible home environment for your children, have considered investing in an air purifying system, you are on the right track. Indoor air pollution affects children even more severely than adults, and contributes to the development of chronic health conditions such as asthma and allergies.

 

Not all air purifiers are equally good, on the other hand, and using an air purifier should never be the only step you take to provide cleaner air for your kids.

 

How Does Indoor Air Pollution Impact Children’s Health?

 

Indoor air pollution can affect anyone. Children face some unique risks, however. That is, as the World Health Organization highlights in the booklet Indoor Air Pollution — Children’s Health and the Environment, the result of two factors. Children breathe in more air pollutants for every kilogram of their total weight than adults do, because they consume more oxygen relative to their body weight and have a faster metabolic rate. In addition, children’s airways are narrower, allowing pollutants to impact their health more severely.

 

As a responsible parent, you likely already make sure that your home is smoke-free. Numerous other indoor air pollutants may threaten your children’s health, however, and those include:

 

  • Mold. Present in many homes, even if you have never seen it, not all mold species pose a threat to human health. Those that do, however, may cause characteristic allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, irritated and swollen eyes, coughing, and a sore throat. Some molds are additionally toxic, while others have the potential to cause infections.
  • Pollen. Tree, grass, and weed pollen easily makes its way into your home through open doors and windows, on clothes, and on pets. Pollen frequently causes allergic reactions in children.
  • Pet dander. Proteins present on the skin cells and other biological components your pet leaves behind can trigger allergy symptoms in children who are allergic.
  • Dust mites. These pests may be so small that you cannot see them, but do not assume that your home is free of them — many American homes have detectable levels of dust mites in at least one bedroom, and that could include your child’s room or nursery. Allergy symptoms can offer a clue that you have high dust mite concentrations in your home, but even if your child is not currently allergic, long-term exposure can lead to sensitization.
  • Other pests, such as rodents and cockroaches, may also trigger allergy symptoms.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds. These harmful pollutants are released into your indoor air in a process called off-gassing, and their sources are numerous. From more obviously hazardous substances to paint, glue, and fuel, to cleaning materials, furniture, carpets, and even building materials, all homes face the threat of VOCs.

 

Will an Air Purifier Keep Your Children Safe from Indoor Air Pollution?

 

Purchasing an air purifier can certainly remove a significant amount of pollution from the air in your home, but it is important to choose wisely.

 

Air purifiers equipped with a true HEPA filter are now considered the gold standard. With powerful mechanical filters designed to filter 99.97 percent of particulate matter with a diameter of 0.3 microns out of the air in a space, these air purifiers continuously trap particles and circulate cleaner air back into the room. This particular particle size is most difficult to filter, but true HEPA air purifiers are even more successful at trapping both smaller and larger particles.

 

So long as you make sure that these air purifiers are adequate for the size of your room and also have a good CADR rating (which indicates that they circulate clean air back into your space effectively), purchasing a true HEPA air purifier will certainly reduce the amount of indoor air pollution your children are exposed to at home.

 

True HEPA air purifiers may filter the vast majority of particles, but they do not do anything to combat the presence of Volatile Organic Compounds — because these are gases. To also be able to filter VOCs from your indoor air, you would need an air purifying system that is additionally fitted with a carbon filter.

 

Carbon filters cause VOCs to become “glued” to their surface, thereby eliminating them from the air. This also, on the other hand, means that they tend to become saturated fast, which is why, to maintain excellent air quality, it is imperative to replace these filters frequently.

 

A note of warning: people who are looking for affordable air purifiers may be tempted to opt for “HEPA-like air purifiers”, or even non-HEPA air purifiers such as ozone generators and ionizers. HEPA-like air purifiers are those that use filters similar to HEPA filters, but without meeting any established standards. Ionizers and ozone generators may or may not help to eliminate certain kinds of air pollution, but both release ozone, which is itself harmful in large quantities. Therefore, these types of air purifiers are not recommended.

 

What Other Steps Can You Take to Increase Your Indoor Air Quality?

 

The best air purifiers currently on the market do, indeed, do exactly what you want them to — they increase the overall air quality in your home, thereby reducing your children’s exposure to hazardous air pollutants.

 

Air purifiers are a great investment, but they remain a second line of defense. Wouldn’t it be best if, in addition to using a true HEPA air purifier, you also took steps to ensure that that air purifier has fewer harmful substances to filter?

 

To tackle the sources of indoor air pollution, you can:

 

  • Vacuum (using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter) and dust frequently, and don’t forget to vacuum your children’s plush toys as well. Wash bedding and other household fabrics at least weekly.
  • Keep the relative humidity levels in your home between 30 and 50 percent, the standard recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency. You can check your humidity levels with an inexpensive humidity meter. If they are too high, it would be optimal to consider purchasing a dehumidifier. Mold thrives in humid and damp areas, and dust mites and roaches also prefer these conditions.
  • Increase ventilation by opening windows often — at least once daily, for 15 minutes. If you do this late at night or early in the morning, you minimize the amount of air pollution that can enter your home from outside. However, if outdoor air pollution still worries you, you may be shocked to learn that the indoor air quality in most American homes is two to five times poorer than the air outside.
  • Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpets with tile or wood flooring, since carpets are magnets for many common allergens including dust, dust mites, pollen, and mold (when humid). If carpets or furniture that become soaked or flooded cannot quickly be dried, consider discarding it. Mold easily builds up in moist fabrics.
  • Having any leaks or water damage repaired as soon as you possibly can.

 

If you spot mold growth in your home or smell mold, it is crucial to take action as soon as possible. Mold exposure cannot just cause short-term discomfort in children, like shortness of breath and irritated eyes. It can also contribute to the development of mold allergies and asthma in the long term. In infants, the most dangerous kinds of mold have even been linked to pulmonary hemorrhage, a very serious health emergency.

 

Even if you never see or smell mold, however, it is not safe to assume that there is no mold infestation in your home. If your previous steps have led you to discover that the humidity levels in your home, or in certain rooms, are above 50 percent, you are still likely to have a mold problem. The same holds true in homes that recently suffered water damage, or in which leaks are present in pipes or roofs.

 

Are you not sure whether you have mold in your home, or know that there is mold but are not sure if it is dangerous? MI&T can, as a nationwide mold inspection only company, perform a detailed visual inspection that includes all the tricky hidden areas of your property. After that portion of the inspection is over, MI&T takes air samples for lab analysis. With a full mold inspection report in hand, there will be no doubt. You will know precisely what types of mold you and your children are exposed to, and in which concentrations. That crucial information will allow you to take steps to remediate your mold infestation and make your home a mold-free zone.

 

If you do have a mold infestation, remediating it is a long-term solution that eliminates the source of the problem. HEPA air purifiers may help to filter mold spores from the air your children breathe in, but they will not stop the mold from accumulating.

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