What Could Be Lurking Within Your Home?

Is the air in your home as clean as it could be? Sure, dusting and vacuuming the high-traffic areas can help get rid of dirt, dust and pet hair…but simple cleaning may not be enough. In fact, the most dangerous particulates such as asbestos and mold are usually found within spaces like your ductwork or behind the walls within your home. And, if left unattended, they can pose a real threat to your family’s physical and respiratory health.

Common Airborne Contaminants in the Home


Most commonly found in homes built before 1980, asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral with unique fire-resistive properties. For most homes built during this time, it may have been used as a spray or applied as a wrap to protect certain components from fire, such as plumbing, electrical work and HVAC equipment.

If the asbestos is disturbed in any way (think home renovation projects), the material can become released into the air and inhaled or ingested by those living or working within the home. Although the fibers are too small to be seen once airborne, they can become stuck within the lungs, heart, and abdomen if inhaled, opening risk for developing mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is an asbestos-caused cancer that can take up to 50 years to develop but may be avoided with proper treatment after asbestos exposure.

Remember, asbestos hasn’t been entirely banned in the United States and was designed to be unseen and untouched, so if you’re living in an old home, be sure to get it inspected and tested by a certified professional!


Poor ventilation + excessive moisture = a breeding ground for mold. Commonly found in dark and damp locations, it grows well on ceiling tiles, wood framing, and other surfaces that remain undisturbed. It can then be spread throughout the home by circulating into the air handling unit—your home’s air conditioner or furnace.

Common allergic reactions to mold can include a stuffy nose, watery eyes, wheezing and rashes. The EPA warns against long term exposure especially for people with severe allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues.

How can you prevent and eliminate mold? Control the humidity in your home. Try using fans to circulate air towards dehumidifiers and air conditioners—they’ll help remove excess moisture and leave your home between 30-60% humidity.

For homes facing extreme humidity or frequent mold outbreaks, it could be a larger ventilation or moisture issue, so consider consulting a mold professional. Remember, airflow is key and clogged air filters prevent circulation, so check and replace filters often, and perform home inspections and HVAC cleanings annually. For some more tips on preventing mold growth check out this recent blog post.

Allergens and Pet Hair

Whether it’s your furry friend or a house full of kids, chances are something is going to be tracked indoors. Constant cleaning schedules help ensure a contaminant-free home, but for people with severe allergies, it’s often not enough. Seasonal allergens, pet hair, and other loose particles can clog filters preventing sufficient airflow within the equipment and living space. These conditions can make it easier for mold to grow within the system, filters, and ducts. Then, once the filter is replaced, those loose contaminants can become dispersed through the home.


Common Misconception about the HVAC System in Newer Homes

With most all newly constructed homes comes freshly installed flooring, crisp cabinets and high expectations. But what about the air handling system of the home—the largest source of energy? Despite popular belief, the duct work and HVAC system of a newly constructed house may not be in top-notch condition and immaculate, like the rest of the home.

Since a common misconception among homeowners is that the HVAC system of a new build is clean, the National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA) urges homeowners of new-construction builds to hire a company with a NADCA certified technician on staff to inspect ductwork and the air handling system of the home. HVAC ductwork is sometimes one of the first systems to be installed in a home and construction dust and drywall dust can make its way into a system during the building process.

Homes undergoing renovations can be exposed to similar amounts of dust and debris, which can impact the functionality of the air conveyance system. NADCA urges homeowners who are renovating their living space to consider the following:

  • Install high-efficiency disposable filters before beginning the renovation process and change them frequently.
  • If you hire a contractor, ask that the return vent, supply registers, and diffusers be sealed and the HVAC system is shut off during renovations that include demo work or other dust-contributing activities.
  • Discuss with your contractor ways to minimize the amount of airborne dust within your home.
  • Ask that poly-plastic barriers be installed and HEPA-filtered negative air scrubbers be used in the work area to “scrub” clean the air and keep dust from migrating to other areas of the house.

NADCA urges homeowners to refer to the Residential Consumers checklist, available on the NADCA website. The checklist is designed to help homeowners understand NADCA’s recommendations regarding the process of HVAC cleaning.