MetroABQ Blog

What Is Your IAQ and Why Does It Matter?


We often assume that air pollution is what is going on outside our homes–smog, gas fumes, pollen and other pollutants, etc. Years ago we all heard about ‘sick building’ syndrome where some employees got sick working in large windowless, ventilation-poor office buildings. But we often don’t think of air pollution as something that’s found in our own homes. The truth is, we are in far more danger from what we breathe inside our homes than outside or in the workplace. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is not something most people think about when buying, selling, or living in a home. The health consequences of ignoring the quality of the air that our family members breathe inside our homes are becoming more and more important.

I’m sure Indoor Air Quality isn’t as exciting and sexy a ‘green’ topic as, say, eco-friendly kitchen countertops, or solar power. In fact, it’s kind of a scary topic because there seems to be so many unknown variables. But every day in our homes, we are living with dangerous chemicals that we have complete control over, and that we could choose to minimize, or to eliminate all together.

More than 20 million people in the U.S. are affected by asthma, with rates steadily climbing over the past 20+ years, particularly among children under 14 years. Unfortunately, many of the environmental triggers are found inside our homes. Asthma can be triggered by things like mold on our shower curtains and dust mites in pillows and blankets, and poisons we spray around the house and yard.

One of the most dangerous pollutants–one that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted–is radon gas. Radon gas exposure causes approximately 21,000 deaths each year from lung cancer. Radon is a naturally-occurring gas formed from the breakdown of uranium found in nearly all soils, but especially around large boulders or other rocky areas. Radon can find its way into homes through cracks in concrete flooring, through gaps in construction, especially around service pipes and construction joints. As radon is a heavy gas, it tends to accumulate in basements and crawlspaces below homes. Radon should be mitigated if the levels are near or greater than 4pCi/l. According to EPA maps of ABQ, our city has higher levels near the mountains and around rocky outcroppings. Places near the MetroABQ core, from Old Town to Nob Hill, and most areas of the valley seems to have lower levels.

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