I often get asked by patients what they can do to improve the air quality in their homes. In light of the recent seaside condominium collapse in Florida, you may also be wondering what health hazards are lurking in the building where you live. Here are my top questions to discuss with your HOA board or building supervisor.
Does your complex have an anti-idling policy?
Not only does idling, running a vehicle’s engine while stationary, waste an estimated 6 billion gallons of fuel in the air each year, but exhaust fumes from cars and other vehicles can be damaging to the lungs and make respiratory symptoms much worse for individuals with chronic lung diseases.
Are there large, commercial-grade entry mats by all exterior doors?
Best to trap dirt and other pollutants before they get inside the building!
How often are the floors cleaned?
Ideally, floors should be cleaned at least twice weekly with a high suction vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
Is smoking allowed indoors?
Banning smoking indoors and within 25 feet of all doors and windows will eliminate your risk of secondhand smoke indoors. If your community has smokers, ideally they would smoke outside in an area separate from the main building.
Is the building dehumidified?
Unless you live in a very arid climate, mold and dust mites are attracted to moisture. It is best to keep humidity between 30-50% to prevent mold growth.
Has the building been checked for radon?
Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer and elevated levels have been found in all fifty states. It is important that the building has been checked for radon.
Are they using low VOC paint?
Buildings often need to be repainted, but paint can be a source of harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Ask your HOA to switch to low VOC paints which are now widely commercially available.
Does the building implement an air filtration system?
Air filtration systems are relevant both for systems supplying public spaces as well as your own living unit. Ideally, systems that use HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air filters) that can remove at least 99.9% of dust, pollen, mold, and bacteria should be used. If there is no way that a central unit for the building can be installed, you can purchase individual units for your own living quarters.
More information about indoor air pollutants and lung health can be found on the American Lung Association website.