It’s impossible to get completely clean air. Walking, cleaning, cooking can all add low levels of contaminants. But you can do multiple things, from structural to easy fixes, that can keep your indoor air safer. And while air purifiers seem like an obvious solution, their health benefits are widely overrated. At their best, they can modestly reduce allergy symptoms, but their efficacy for asthma attacks has less scientific support.
According to the EPA, by far the most effective method to minimize indoor air pollution is to control the sources of pollutants and to ventilate a home with clean outdoor air when possible. Here are some of the EPA’s most viable strategies for caring for your indoor air.
1. Use a dehumidifier
Controlling the relative humidity level in a home can help minimize certain kinds of bacteria. Relative humidity of 30-50 percent is considered ideal for homes. Make sure to clean your dehumidifier in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and refill with clean water daily. For sensitive people, studies do show a link between indoor dampness and some upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, wheezing, and asthma symptoms.
When certain air pollutants from particles and gases contaminate indoor air, it can escalate into indoor air pollution. The following are the most significant causes of indoor air pollution..
Asbestos is found in various materials used in home construction such as coatings, paints, building materials, and ceiling and floor tiles. Since 1989 asbestos has been partially banned partially in the U.S., so it’s much less of a threat in houses built since then. However, in homes built before 1989, the risk of asbestos is substantial.
2. Formaldehyde/Pressed wood products
Formaldehyde is an important chemical used widely by industry to manufacture building materials and numerous household products such as paints, sealants, and pressed wood products. In 2018, it became illegal to manufacture or import composite wood products in the United States if they contain excessive amounts of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is also a by-product of combustion, such as cigarette smoke and cooking. Formaldehyde tends to be omnipresent, indoors and outdoors, at low levels. In higher concentrations and sustained exposure, formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat as well as cause some types of cancers.
Did you know?
For many people, air pollution is an outside thing—think exhaust spewing from cars or factory chimneys belching smoke—not something that happens inside our ordered, cozy homes. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the surprising truth is the air inside our homes might be up to five times more polluted than the air outside.
Combine that with research that suggests people spend roughly 90 percent of their time indoors and you have a perfect storm of why air pollution can lead to significant health conditions. In 2014, a World Health Organization (WHO) report stated air pollution had become the world’s single biggest environmental health risk, linked to around 7 million deaths in 2012.
Indoor air pollution
The issue is even more insidious because you can’t see air pollution with the naked eye—a lack of smog is no indication of purity. And despite all our attempts to keep our indoor spaces tidy, ultimately it takes more than cleanliness to improve indoor air quality.
In the last decade, a growing body of research confirms that even in the largest and most industrialized cities, the pollution in the home can far exceed what’s outside it.
Curious about the main causes of indoor air pollution?
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