While global warming, energy and water conservation and are hot buttons among today’s green homeowners, surprisingly, awareness of the importance of pollutant-free indoor air is not as prevalent among those embracing their green side. Even more ironic, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that deaths related to indoor air pollution are much higher than those linked to outdoor air pollution, even in the most contaminated cities. And, recent research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the majority of Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, meaning polluted indoor air is a common health hazard and is vitally important to the health of you and your family.
How harmful is polluted indoor air? Well, it’s known to cause asthma, sore throats, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, among other health problems. The WHO assessed the contribution of a range of risk factors to the burden of disease and revealed indoor air pollution as the eighth most significant risk factor.
Wondering what you can do to ensure you’re protected from the health dangers associated with contaminated indoor air? Both the EPA and WHO Web sites provide steps to safeguard your home from the adverse effects of poor indoor air quality. Check some of them out below.
Know what’s going on in your home
At-home test kits can be purchased at a variety of popular home retailers at an inexpensive price. These tests will help determine the average temperature of your home, carbon monoxide levels, humidity and air movement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide sends at least 15,000 Americans to the emergency room annually. Moreover, at least 439 people die of unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide poisoning every year. Purchasing a carbon monoxide detector is the best way to make certain you’re protected from the invisible killer. Many of today’s leading home security systems also come equipped with these easy-to-install detectors.
Maintain a spot free, sanitary home
Dust and dirt are the most widespread origins of poor indoor air quality. That means you must frequently clean all areas of your home, especially windows, air ducts and ceiling fans. And, if you smoke, do it outside. The less toxic chemicals floating in your air the better.
Circulate your home’s air
Keep your indoor air moving. Stagnant air means that harmful pollutants can also get caught and embedded in clothing, carpeting and furniture. Installing a ventilation system helps improve air flow, subsequently enhancing indoor air quality. But remember, allowing mold and mildew to grow within your in-duct HVAC systems will increase pollutants if not kept clean and well-maintained.
Keep away wetness
Mold and mildew growing from excessive moisture will decrease the air quality within your home and are most prominent in bathrooms, kitchens and basements because these rooms are easily heated and collect the most moisture. Ensure bathrooms, kitchens, attics and crawl spaces are properly ventilated by incorporating a fan or ventilation system. Consider also purchasing a dehumidifier for the basement and attic to keep relative humidity levels between 30-50 percent.
Purchase an air purifier
These will eliminate both odors and chemicals from the air. Just like a ventilation system, an air purifier must be frequently cleaned and well maintained to maximize effectiveness and not cause reverse effects on the quality of the air you breathe.
Choose reduced VOC products
Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) can often be found in household products such as paint, wax, varnish and cleaning products. Researching alternative products that have low or no VOCs is the best way to limit the amount in your home. Adhesives are also a building category frequently overlooked, yet are a key aspect of today’s healthy homes as they have a considerable effect on the conditions of your indoor air. With such a great amount of adhesives used throughout the home, they are the main source of volatile organic compound emissions, especially short term.
The green movement has encouraged adhesive manufacturers to reduce solvent levels and today many offer a calculated VOC level of zero, along with products made without formaldehyde. Water-based adhesives also emit far less VOCs than their conventional counterparts. Some manufacturers like the W.F. Taylor Company and the Henry Company only provide low or no VOC products. In terms of the environment, solvent-based adhesives are also considered hazardous waste, so those made to be eco-smart are obvious benefits to Mother Earth.
Become knowledgeable about your indoor air
Playing an active role and becoming educated about what you can do to improve your indoor air quality will pay dividends in the future. Implementing some of the suggested tips above will allow for immediate health benefits for you and your family. Think greater energy levels and the potential disappearance of headaches, asthma and sore throats. Long term benefits include putting you and loved ones at a lower risk for respiratory disease and cancer. I’d say it’s worth it.