At Home Steps for Improving Indoor Air Quality
Often overshadowed by topics such as energy efficiency and water conservation, indoor air quality is increasingly entering the forefront of discussions around green building. What's being discovered is that our homes and apartments are often the source of a multitude of pollutants and allergens, which can lead to a startling number of short and long term health effects. Don't despair though, because WegoWise has some at home tips to remove indoor air pollution and make your home a healthier place to live in.
Indoor Pollutants and Health Effects
On average, we spend around 90% of our time indoors and breathe air that is estimated by the EPA to be 2 to 5 times as polluted as outdoor air! There are too many pollutants out there effecting indoor air quality to mention them all. They include second hand smoke, carbon dioxide, mold, radon, volotile organic compounds (VOCs) plus many others. Indoor air pollutants have been found to cause a variety of health effects, which include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Other health effects may show up years after exposure, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer. However, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems.
What You Can Do
Thankfully, there are many strategies you can employ in your home to help mitigate potential adverse effects due to poor indoor air quality. These strategies fall into three basic categories: source control, improved ventilation and air cleaners. Outdoor air ventilation exchangers and individual room or whole home air purifiers can help eliminate many indoor air pollutants. Source control is the easiest and most cost effective, so that's what we'll focus on here. The following are some common things to help improve indoor air:
- Keep your floors clean! Chemicals and allergens can accumulate in household dust for decades. Vacuum with a HEPA filter to reduce concentrations of pollutants in your home. Mop to eliminate what vacuuming doesn't catch. Remove your shoes when you come indoors, and help prevent a host of dirt, dust and other particles from spreading throughout your home.
- Keep humidity levels in check! Keeping humidity around 30%-50% helps keep dust mites, mold and other allergens under control. A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens. Use an exhaust fan or crack open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing, vent the clothes dryer to the outside and fix those leaky pipes.
- No smoking! Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. No more explanation needed.
- Test for radon! Whether you have a new or old home, you could have a radon problem. This colorless, odorless gas significantly raises the risk of lung cancer. Testing is easy, inexpensive, and takes only a few minutes. If you discover a radon problem, there are simple ways to reduce levels of the gas that are not too costly. Even high radon levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
- Eliminate those VOCs! VOCs can be found in many household products. Stop using aerosols, which often smell fresh but are chock full of chemicals. Look for fragrance-free or naturally scented laundry products. Switch to mild cleaners that don't have artificial fragrances. Open the windows and let in fresh air to prevent toxic chemical buildup and think about getting some indoor plants, which act as living air purifiers.
The Bottom Line
There are many common pollutants we can be exposed to every day in indoor environments. However, there are many things we can do to improve the air we breathe. We hope the ideas above give you a good list of things you can do at your home! Additionally, if you're thinking about remodeling your home for energy efficiency or other reasons, the EPA has a great site with what to consider to ensure maximum indoor air quality after your project is complete. The site breaks down the home by type of room, and then addresses the issues that one should think about. Definitely check it out if you're thinking about renovating any time soon!