The indoor air quality in your house is very important for the health of you and your family. If it is poor, short and long term health problems can occur. I’ll tell you all about the air quality in your home, how to measure it and simple ways to improve it that won’t break the bank.
What does indoor air quality mean?
According to the EPA, “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.” If there are a lot of pollutants in the air in your home, you would have poor indoor air quality. We’ll get to the major home pollutants below.
Why is it important?
Just as car emissions, factories and a host of other factors pollute the air outside, there are things in your house that can make your air dirty. This can lead to adverse short terms and long term health risks and sometimes death. Indoor air quality is such a problem, especially in apartment buildings, that the EPA has recognized it as a syndrome called Sick Building Syndrome.
Health symptoms of poor indoor air quality:
- Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
- Shortness of breath
- Hypersensitivity and allergies
- Sinus congestion
- Coughing and sneezing
If you are exposed to polluted air for long periods of time, like years, long term side effects can also include respiratory diseases, heart diseases cancer and death. Asthma and allergies often tend to get worse in homes with poor indoor air quality.
What are the major indoor air pollutants?
- Cigarette Smoke
- Mold & Mildew
- Household Cleaning Supplies
- Dust Mites, Pollen, Pet Dander & Cockroaches
- Poor ventilation
- Gas stoves
How to establish if you have a problem with your indoor air
Fist you should do some detective work and ask yourself a few questions like
- “Do the symptoms come on when I am in the house?”
- “Do they subside when I leave?”
- “Do I smell a musty odor when I am in the house or see signs of mold?”
- “Is it hard to breathe in my house?”
Next you will need to establish the source of the polluted air. You can buy an Indoor Air Quality Sensor like this. It monitors 9 different pollution particulates and will display your levels of particulates as well as alert you if they meet or exceed EPA guidelines. You can even program it to sound an alarm if levels in your house become unsafe.
You can also hire a professional to an air quality assessment for your home.
How to clean up your home’s air
Polyurethane and Formaldehyde pollutants
Unfortunately Polyurethane and Formaldehyde are found in many of our household items from our mattresses and sofas to our flooring. But companies are starting to wake up and manufacture items without these harmful chemicals. Medley, for example, has a full line of organic sofas free from toxins.
Cigarettes have hundreds of chemicals in them that disperse through the air when the cigarette is smoked. These chemicals are inhaled by other people (second hand smoke) and settle on surfaces in your home. The best thing to do is if you or a member of your household smokes, do it outside, in a well ventilated area.
Pesticides kill bugs and rodents. They contain very harmful chemicals and if spayed, will disperse through the air and settle on surfaces the way cigarette smoke does. Thankfully, there are many products on the market that kill pests with natural ingredients. Wondercide has a whole line of them.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew can be very toxic if it has infiltrated your home. I’m not talking about the occasional spots of mildew in the shower, but Black mold which is highly toxic. If you suspect something like Black Mold in your home, walls or ductwork, it is best to call a professional. High humidity can contribute to mold and mildew in the house. To reduce humidity easily, use plants! Check out these 10 plants that absorb moisture in the air of your home.
Household Cleaning Products
Like pesticides, many household cleaning products are highly toxic. Luckily there are 100s of all ecofriendly cleaning products on the market. Method is one of my favorites. If you have to use a cleaning product with harmful chemicals, make sure you open the windows and turn on a fan.
Dust, Pollen and Pet Dander
Thankfully, this is probably the easiest pollutant to deal with on the list. Unfortunately many people have a problem with this which leads to breathing problems, allergies and asthma. People who have lots of clutter or don’t dust regularly can become sick. Be sure to dust and vacuum regularly and try to contain the clutter. See my simple decluttering method for great tips on decluttering easily in three easy steps.
Harvard recently did a study that found gas stoves used for cooking are releasing toxic fumes in homes.
Between December 2019 and May 2021, researchers collected over 200 unburned natural gas samples from 69 unique kitchen stoves and building pipelines across Greater Boston. From these samples, researchers detected 296 unique chemical compounds, 21 of which are federally designated as hazardous air pollutants. —Harvard School of Public Health
Other simple things you can do to clean up your indoor air quality
Open the windows
Proper ventilation is key to having good air quality. Whenever the weather permits, open the windows of your home to air things out.
Turn on your ceiling fans
This will also help with ventilation and circulate air throughout the house
Get air purifying plants
Plants not only make a house feel welcoming, but the right ones will filter toxins out of your environment. Check out this list of 20 air purifying plants.
Use your stove hood vent
The range vents or hood vents, when turned on, suck harmful fumes and cooking exhaust out of your kitchen through ductwork or charcoal filters. It is recommended to have these powerful fans on anytime you cook.
Purchase an air purifier
Air purifiers trap air containments in a special filter. Be sure to get one with a guneine HEPA filter for the best results. These are some best sellers from Amazon.
Change your HVAC air filters regularly
Not only is this good practice for keeping your air in your home clean, but it will keep you from making costly repairs in the long run.
Your indoor air quality is an important factor in keeping you and your family healthy. By following these tips, everyone can breath easy. For more great tips on improving your indoor air quality, see this article.
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