Most people are well aware of the issue of outdoor air pollution. From smog to ozone to carbon emissions, air quality is constantly making headlines, especially in regards to global warming and the greenhouse effect.
What people don’t seem to think about is the quality of the air inside their own homes. Protected by four walls, a few doors and glass windows, you may think you are safe from outdoor pollutants. However, this simply isn’t the case.
In fact, your indoor air quality may be just as bad — if not worse — than the air outside. Lead, formaldehyde, benzene, radon, dust mites, mould and other contaminants can easily find their way into your home and cause any number of health issues.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to prevent the introduction of these toxins and irritants into your home. And, if they’re already present, it’s possible to get rid of many of them.
1. Clean, Clean, Clean
Dust, dander, dirt and bacteria have a way of floating into homes and settling on floors, shelves and other surfaces. These respiratory irritants can have negative health effects on people with asthma, the elderly and people who are sensitive to allergens. And, because your home is likely airtight most of the year, none of this dust or dirt ever escapes your home — unless you clean it.
Vacuum, dust, mop and sweep on a regular basis to keep allergens at bay. In high traffic areas, vacuum the same spot multiple times. You might also consider having guests remove their shoes before coming inside as they track in all kinds of bacteria and dirt. One study found that 98% of lead dust in homes is tracked in from outside.
2. Maintain Proper Humidity Levels
Mould and dust mites thrive in moist environments. And these pests can release spores, exacerbate asthma symptoms and cause allergies. So keeping your home at a proper humidity level is essential to improving air quality and keeping your family healthy.
As a general rule of thumb, the humidity level inside your home should be 40% to 60%. In the summer, use an air conditioner to maintain air quality and reduce pollen count indoors. And, in the winter, use a humidifier and dehumidifier as you deem necessary.
This can prevent dry skin, nose bleeds, mould and other potential health risks. You might also run exhaust fans while taking hot showers, refraining from over-watering house plants and fixing leaky pipes.
3. Start Your Car Outside
If you have a habit of starting up your car in the garage, now may be the time to break it, especially if your garage is attached to your home. The smoke, carbon monoxide and other harmful gases emanating from your tailpipe can easily enter your home through gaps under doors, ducts, uninsulated outlets and other openings.
If you notice coloured smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe, this may serve as all the more reason to start your car up outside and keep it parked on the street, far away from your home.
For instance, dark or black smoke may be a sign of oil leaking into the combustion cycle. This can cause your vehicle to create high levels of smog, which poses a potential threat to everyone around.
4. Avoid Flames and Sprays
Put down the pine-scented air freshener. Studies have shown that these seemingly beneficial products may be causing more harm than good. All types have the potential to emit high concentrations of volatile organic compounds.
In the United States, all air fresheners scientists tested emitted one or more of potentially toxic or hazardous compounds. By themselves, these chemicals are dangerous enough but they also have the potential to mix and react with other products within the home, which could cause even more indoor air pollution.
Additionally, burning certain kinds of candles can also release particulate matter, chemicals and other harmful substances into your home’s air.
One study found that paraffin-based candles, which are the most common — release toxic chemicals toluene and benzene. And frequently lighting these candles in unventilated spaces can dramatically impact the quality of your air. Thus, it may be better to stick to lighting beeswax or soybean candles while simultaneously ventilating your home.
Now that you know some sources of indoor air pollution – and strategies to manage them – you can breathe a little easier. Make these four suggested changes today!