How To Improve Indoor Air Quality
List of common pollutants, side effects, sources, and pollution-fighting plants
According to the National Safety Council, Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, and 65 percent of that time at home. Thus poor indoor air quality can have a significant impact on people’s lives, especially those who are most vulnerable: infants and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who have chronic illnesses.
- Levels of pollutants in indoor air can be from two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, according to the U.S. EPA.
Steps can be taken to help improve indoor air quality at home, the workplace, and in other indoor environments:
- The Most Important Step: Studies show that the air in our homes should be changed several times a day to prevent build up of pollutants. If you or any of your family members suffer from unexplained drowsiness, headaches or a general malaise, try getting fresh air through the house.
- Clean the air naturally: Open the windows (just a crack is sufficient) at least sev
- Check to make sure that all vents are unblocked.
- Change filters on central cooling and heating systems and air cleaners according to the manufacturer’s directions. Regularly clean the vents in your kitchen, bathroom, and dryer, and make sure they operate properly.
- Install an air purifier, or an air purification system.
- Caution is advised. Ozone-based air cleaners are not advised and both the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board have issued advisories on the use of ozone air cleaners. California is currently proposing to regulate ozone air cleaners.
- Have any air-conditioning systems inspected regularly to verify that there is no internal contamination build up contributing to poor indoor air quality.
- Avoid or reduce biological contaminants by maintaining humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners; emptying water trays in dehumidifiers, air conditioners, and refrigerators frequently; drying or removing any water-damaged carpets or furniture; and routinely cleaning bedding and items used by pets.
- Understand the role of Green Cleaning. Indoor pollution is due in large part to volatile organic compounds (often referred to as: VOCs) that evaporate from home decorating and cleaning products. The most important step is to open windows and let those pollutants out and the next goal should be to put fewer chemicals into your environment. "Just because a product says it's natural doesn't mean it's nontoxic," says Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of Seventh Generation, producer of genuinely eco-friendly cleaning supplies and household products.
- Use natural pest control techniques indoors whenever possible. Banish pesticides from your garden and lawn as well, as these toxins can easily be transported into the house on shoes and clothing, and by air.
- Keep your plumbing traps filled with water to help prevent sewer gas from entering the building.
- Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home, and avoid indoor areas where smoking takes place. (For tips to stop smoking, please click here.)
- Prevent carbon monoxide exposure by keeping gas appliances properly serviced, having your central heating system inspected and cleaned yearly, and never idling your car inside an attached garage. Install an automatic door closer on the door connecting the garage to the house.
- Test your home for radon. Radon can seep into the house from contaminated earth and rock under the home, or from well water and/or building materials. A common misconception is that only older houses have elevated levels of this naturally occurring radioactive gas, which has been implicated in lung cancer. Indeed, some new homes are now built using radon-resistant construction techniques that can help reduce indoor radon levels. However, they are not fool-proof. Any home, old or new, airtight or drafty - can have a radon problem. Since radon is odorless, tasteless and invisible, the only way to know for sure if your home is affected is to check for radon with a quick, inexpensive test.
- Easy, do-it-yourself kits can be purchased at hardware and other retail outlets.
- Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at epa.gov/radon to learn more or find your state's radon office on the EPA site at epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html.
- http://calenvironmental.com - Mold Testing From The Website of California Environmental Testing
- www.epa.gov - Website of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)
- BuildingEcology.com. http://www.buildingecology.com. Links to a large number of resources for information on indoor air quality.
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