We tend to think of air pollution as something outside — smog, ozone, or haze hanging in the air.. But the truth is, the air inside homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside. The air inside your home may be polluted by lead (in house dust), formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, even volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners. Some pollutants are tracked into the home. Some arrive via a new mattress or furniture, carpet cleaners, or a coat of paint on the walls.
In that mix, you’ll also find microscopic dust mites — a major allergen — plus mould and heaps of pet dander. “Even if you don’t have pets, you’ve probably got pet dander,”
Children, people with asthma, and the elderly may be especially sensitive to indoor pollutants, but other effects on health may appear years later, after repeated exposure.
Indoor allergens and irritants have become much more important in recent decades because we’re spending more time indoors. And because modern homes are airtight, these irritants can’t easily escape. We’re all exposed to a greater degree than we were three or four decades ago.
5 Simple Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality
- Keep your floors fresh.
- Suck it up. Chemicals and allergens can accumulate in household dust for decades. By using a vacuum with a HEPA filter you can reduce concentrations of lead in your home. You can also get rid of other toxins, like brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs) as well as allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites.
Using a vacuum cleaner that has strong suction, rotating brushes, and a HEPA filter ensures that dust and dirt won’t get blown back out in the exhaust. In high traffic areas, vacuum the same spot several times. Don’t forget walls, carpet edges, and upholstered furniture, where dust accumulates. For best results, vacuum two or more times each week and wash out your filter regularly.
- Mop it up. Mopping picks up the dust that vacuuming leaves behind. You can skip the soaps and cleaners and just use plain water to capture any lingering dust or allergens.
- Keep it out. Put a large floor mat at every door. People track in all sorts of chemicals via the dirt on their shoes. A door mat reduces the amount of dirt, pesticides, and other pollutants from getting into your home. If the mat is big enough, even those who don’t wipe their shoes will leave most pollutants on the mat — not the floors in your home.
To best protect your family, ask people to remove their shoes when entering your home. Keep house shoes, slippers, and socks near the door.
- Keep a healthy level of humidity. Dust mites and mould love moisture. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% helps keep them and other allergens under control. A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens. An air conditioner also reduces indoor pollen count — another plus for allergy – sufferers.
More tips for dehumidifying your home:
- Use an exhaust fan or crack open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing.
- Don’t overwater houseplants.
- Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
- Fix leaky plumbing to prevent moisture-loving mould.
- Make your home a no-smoking zone. Probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Research shows that secondhand smoke increases a child’s risk of developing ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Smell good naturally. You may associate that lemony or piney scent with a clean kitchen or clean clothes.But synthetic fragrances in laundry products and air fresheners emit dozens of different chemicals into the air. You won’t find their names on the product labels. Conventional laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, and air fresheners in solid, spray, and oil form may all emit such gasses.
- Look for fragrance-free or naturally-scented laundry products.
- Switch to mild cleaners that don’t include artificial fragrances.
- Stop using aerosol sprays — deodorants, hair sprays, carpet cleaners, furniture polish, and air fresheners.
- Let in fresh air. Open windows so toxic chemicals don’t build up in your home. What if you or your child has pollen allergies? Then keep rooms ventilated with a filtered air- conditioning system.
- Use sliced lemons and baking soda to get a clean scent in the kitchen.
- Bring nature indoors. It’s also healthier. NASA research shows that indoor plants like these act as living air purifiers — the foliage and roots work in tandem to absorb chemical pollutants released by synthetic materials.
Looking for indoor air quality solutions? Contact us for a free consultation.