How Pests and Pets Impact Indoor Air Quality

Dog and cat lying on the floor together.

ICA’s home inspection course provides you with the skills you need to be a successful home inspector, and this includes testing indoor air quality. Anyone hoping to earn their home inspector certification would do well to study up on the most common air quality challenges found in both residential and commercial properties.

Indoor air quality is important everywhere — in homes, offices, shopping malls, municipal buildings — wherever people spend time and breathe the air. If you’re interested in becoming a home inspector, be sure to take notes on just how quickly the smallest of critters can impact a home.

Well-Built Homes Harbor Unhealthy Air

Years ago, people didn’t think much about indoor air quality; they just took it for granted. As our society has become more health-conscious, though, home buyers are eager to ensure the properties they purchase are safe. One factor that has affected air quality in homes recently is the advancement of building methods. Homes are built so efficiently they are practically airtight, especially compared to older houses. While this level of quality seems like a good thing, new homes don’t always have fresh air circulating through them. For this reason, when the air in the home becomes unhealthy, it tends to remain that way because it has little opportunity to escape.

Homeowners today don’t open their windows as much as they used to, either. Air conditioners have replaced the breeze as a means of cooling the home. Anyone with their home inspector certification will see both the good and bad that comes with creating such an airtight lifestyle.

What’s Harmful About the Air?

Lots of factors can influence air quality — radon gas, mold, PVCs and more. Entire books have been written about these toxic substances and how they impact the health and safety of residents.

But today we’re going to talk about two particularly common causes of air contamination in the home: pets and pests. Though less immediately threatening to a person’s health, they’re just as noteworthy for those interested in becoming a home inspector.

Dogs and cats are the most popular pets in the U.S., and their hair can make a real mess in a home. Even if homeowners vacuum frequently, pet hair and dander can build up on furniture, deep inside carpets and in tight spaces the vacuum can’t reach. It’s not uncommon for homeowners to go nose-blind to the way their pets impact their health. It isn’t until they host guests that they realize just how much of an impact pet hair has on the air quality. Hair and dander may seem like minor annoyances to pet lovers, but they can be serious triggers for those with allergies or asthma.

Just as dangerous is the urine and feces of other animals lurking in the crawl spaces of the home. Homeowners usually clean up after their pets, but if the house has mice, rats, roaches or other pests in the walls, ceilings, attics or basements, they may not have easy access to these areas or even know the urine and feces are there.

Rodent droppings are particularly dangerous to humans.

Physical Symptoms of Poor-Quality Air

Particularly dangerous is hantavirus, which is caused by breathing air contaminated with the urine or feces of rodents, especially mice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hantavirus is found all over the world and can be fatal. Symptoms include fatigue, headaches, chills, and nausea. In many cases, though, people with hantavirus may not recognize signs of the syndrome and fail to get treatment in time, leading to a 38 percent mortality rate.

Roach droppings, small though they are, can aggravate allergies and asthma too. Roaches’ saliva and body parts are also allergens. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that roaches can cause coughing, nasal congestion, skin rash, wheezing and ear and sinus infections

Testing Air for Quality

Inspectapedia reports that not all air pollutants are particulates. Some are gases. When you test for air quality, you will want to do a swab test as well as a test of the air itself.

ICA School offers those who have taken our home inspector course free access to over 200 pages of downloadable e-books and online reference material about testing for indoor air quality.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also produced a seven-page document outlining methods and procedures for testing indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality testing is usually an optional part of a home inspection. You may offer it to your clients for an extra fee, which will include sending samples to the lab to be analyzed.

Some of the signs in a home that may indicate the recommendation for air quality testing include the presence of heavy dust or dirt, pet hair, rodent droppings, mold and bad odors including sewer gases, mustiness, chemicals, and decomposing pests. You may recommend indoor air quality testing based on the presence of these signs.

For more information on our home inspection course and what it covers, check out our website today. While anyone with a home inspection certification should know how to test for air quality, it never hurts to brush up on your knowledge, especially as new and better techniques are developed for gauging dangerous contaminants.

If you’re seriously considering becoming a home inspector, you may be wondering what sets ICA apart from our competitors. Do a little research, though, and you’ll see just how convenient, affordable and comprehensive our courses really are!

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