When we think of air pollution, we tend to think of the pollution and smog outdoors.  But the air in our homes, workplaces, and inside other buildings can contain more pollutants than the air outside.  Lead that gets into household dust, radon, formaldehyde, fire-retardant chemicals, and even unstable chemicals used as scents in cleaning products can build up in the air inside your house or apartment.  Pollutants can be tracked in from outside or can be contributed by new furnishings, new paint, or services like carpet cleaning.

The air may also be filled with allergens like dust mites, mold, and pet dander.  You are likely to acquire pet dander even if you have no pets, since pet owners who visit carry it on their clothing and unknowingly shed it wherever they go.

Children, older people, and asthmatics are most sensitive to pollution indoors.  But others may experience adverse effects after repeated exposure over years.

Indoor pollutants have become more important than they were 30 or 40 years ago, because people are spending less time outdoors and modern homes have become more airtight.

5 Easy Ways To Improve Indoors Air Quality

1. Keep the floor clean

Substances can build up in household dust over a long time.  Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can lower your home’s concentrations of lead, fire retardants, and allergens. A HEPA filter, strong suction power, and rotating brushes help to keep the dust and dirt from escaping the vacuum cleaner.  Go over high-traffic areas multiple times.  Take care to get the edges, and also vacuum your walls and upholstered furniture.  Vacuum at least twice weekly.  Clean the filter regularly. Use a mop to pick up the dust still left.  Use a microfiber mop or cloth, dampened with water only.  You don’t need to add cleaning chemicals to the process.

Place doormats at all entryways.  Doormats help keep out dirt, pesticides, and other things you don’t want brought into the house.  The bigger the mat, the more pollutants it will capture, even when people don’t actually wipe their shoes.

Any home built before 1978 probably still has lead paint inside.  Even in newer homes, lead dust can be tracked in from outside, putting young children at risk for brain, nervous system, and kidney damage.  Pesticides from outdoors can also cause brain damage in kids.

Keep your home safer by asking people to take off their shoes when they come in.  Keep slippers or house shoes by the door.

2. Control humidity

Keep humidity at about 30%-50% in order to discourage mold, dust mites, and other allergens.  A dehumidifier or air conditioner will lower the level of moisture indoors.  Air conditioning also lowers the pollen count in the indoor air.

Here are some more dehumidifying tips:

  • When you cook, bathe, shower, or turn on the dishwasher, either click on an exhaust fan or open a window slightly.
  • Don’t water houseplants too much.
  • Vent the air from the clothes dryer outside.
  • Repair leaking plumbing.
  • Remember to empty the drip pans of dehumidifiers or window air conditioners.

3. Don’t allow smoking indoors

Secondhand smoke is one of the major cause of indoor air pollution.

Cigarette smoke has over 4,000 chemicals.  Research has linked secondhand smoke to increased risk of childhood respiratory infections, asthma, and cancer, as well as SIDS.  The smoker also risks cancer, heart attack, stroke, and respiratory problems.

Final Smoke can aid you in stopping smoking, as well as support from family, friends, or a support group.  Remind yourself of your reasons for wanting to quit to take your mind off cravings.

Still, if you are unable to quit, smoke outside of the house.

4. Regardless of the age of your house, test it for Radon

The colorless and odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer among Americans.  If you smoke as well, radon will exacerbate your lung cancer risk. Radon gas is radioactive and results from uranium decaying naturally in the soil.  It finds its way into the house through cracks in the foundation.  But whether your house is drafty or airtight, and even if it has no basement, radon can still get in.

Granite countertops emit radon, but experts are not certain whether they emit enough to pose a cancer risk.  Testing is not difficult or expensive and takes minutes, using a Radon gas home testing kit.

5. Keep a naturally scented home

Laundry detergents, laundry aids, and air fresheners in every form have synthetic fragrances which are loaded with different chemicals. A study found that one plug-in air freshener gave off 20 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.  Seven of them were considered toxic or hazardous according to federal law.  The names of the chemicals were not on the label, since the law only requires the word “fragrance” to be listed.  The ingredients of the fragrance are protected as a trade secret.

Fragrances usually come from petroleum products and most have been tested to see whether they cause skin sensitivity, not to see if inhaling them can cause health problems.  Phthalates are used in fragrances as well as for softening plastics, and create hormonal disruptions in animal studies.

To avoid potentially hazardous fragrances, try the following:

  • Buy laundry products with a natural scent or no fragrance.
  • Use mild cleaning products made without added artificial fragrance.
  • Don’t use aerosol spray forms of deodorant, hair spray, air freshener, cleaners, etc.
  • Open the windows, letting household chemicals escape instead of building up.  If outdoor allergies are a problem, use filtered air conditioning for ventilation.
  • Freshen your kitchen naturally with baking soda and lemon slices.
  • Houseplants have absorptive roots and leaves, and act as indoor air purification systems, according to research by NASA.  Make sure to use non-poisonous plants if you have children or pets.
  • Use natural fragrance from essential oils.

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