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.
2. Resolve your radon
Test for radon and seek ways to mitigate it if there is a problem. If you know through testing that your home exceeds the recommended radon level, the first step is to choose a qualified radon mitigation contractor to reduce your home’s radon level. It’s a fairly common problem that can definitely be minimized and lived with if fixed. Some radon reduction systems have a 99 percent reduction success rate.
3. Be vigilant about ventilation
Always ventilate your space when using products with chemicals that can release pollutants into the air; if products are stored following use, make sure to close tightly. Many household cleaners contain chemicals that are corrosive to the lungs and can cause respiratory damage.
4. Minimize mold and mites
Reduce asthma triggers such as mold and dust mites. Keep all areas in the home clean and dry, especially carpets. Empty water trays in air conditioners, dehumidifiers and refrigerators frequently. Clean up any mold, which can lead to respiratory illnesses, and get rid of excess water or moisture.
5. Put the kibosh on smoking
Introduce a zero-tolerance policy for indoor smoking. Indoor tobacco smoke can increase your risk of heart attacks, even if you are a non smoker. One of the most important things you can do for your health is to ensure a smoke-free home.
6. Keep a tight leash on leaks
Inspect fuel-burning appliances regularly for leaks; make repairs when necessary. Unlike carbon monoxide, gas leaks have a warning smell so that it can be readily detected. A gas leaks can make you feel dizzy, nauseous and experience difficulty breathing, and in large amounts can cause suffocation.
7. Beware of carbon monoxide
While smoke detectors alert you to the presence of smoke and possibly fire in your home, carbon monoxide detectors alert you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas. It may be worthwhile to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm or purchasing a combo detector.
8. Put VOCs in their place
To avoid developing a respiratory-based health issue or worsening asthma, store unused chemicals in a garage or shed where people do not frequent.
9. Become an eco-conscious cleaner
Check the ingredients of your cleaning supplies to make sure they are low VOC and non-toxic. Stay clear of ingredients such as formaldehyde,1,4-Dioxane, and quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats,” which often appear on the label as benzalkonium chloride. Quats function as germ killers in antibacterial cleaning supplies and disinfectants, but are also a recognized lung irritant.
10. Get the facts on new furniture
According to the EPA, purchasing “exterior-grade” pressed-wood products are a smart way to limit formaldehyde exposure in the home. These products off-gas less formaldehyde than cheaper pressed wood products because they contain phenol resins, as opposed to the more lethal urea resins. Before buying pressed-wood products, such as cabinetry and furniture, ask about or research the formaldehyde content of these products.
The bottom line
These small changes you make within the home can seem insignificant, but when you add them all together, they make a big difference, enhancing your indoor air quality—and your long-term health.
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