Most of us spend much of our time indoors. Unfortunately, indoor air is far more polluted than outdoor air. According to the EPA, indoor air contains two to five times —and on occasion, as much as 100 times – more contaminants than outdoor air.
The air that we breathe in our homes and offices contains pollutants (such as chemicals, gases, and living organisms like mold and pests) which can put us at risk for health problems.
Common Household Pollutants
- Radon, a radioactive gas that is formed in the soil. Radon can enter buildings through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer in general.
- Secondhand smoke, a result of burning tobacco products. Secondhand smoke can cause cancer and serious respiratory illnesses. Children are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke; it can cause or worsen asthma symptoms, and is linked to increased risk of ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Combustion Pollutants, gases or particles that come from burning materials. The major source of combustion pollutants in homes is improperly vented or unvented fuel-burning appliances (such as space heaters, wood stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces). The type and amount of pollutants produced depends on the type of appliance, how well it’s installed, maintained, and vented, and the kind of fuel it uses.
Common combustion pollutants include:
- Carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Carbon monoxide can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and even death.
- Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a colorless, odorless gas that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and an increased risk of respiratory infection.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals found in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, varnishes and waxes, pesticides; building materials and furnishings, office equipment, moth repellents, air fresheners, and dry-cleaned clothing. VOCs evaporate into the air when these products are used and, sometimes, when they are stored. VOCs can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and/or cause headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some of them can also cause cancer.
- Molds, living things that produce spores. Molds produce spores that float in the air, land on damp surfaces, and grow. Inhaling or touching molds can cause sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rashes. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks.
Improving Indoor Air Quality
Some simple steps for improving your indoor air quality are provided below:
- Increase air ventilation by opening a few windows every day for five to ten minutes, preferably on both sides of the house.
- Get houseplants! NASA has found that houseplants remarkably improve the air in your home.
Here is a list of the top ten air-purifying house plants.
- Take off your shoes and leave them by the door as soon as you enter the house, to prevent tracking toxic particles from room-to-room.
- Discourage tobacco smoking in or around your home.
- Use non-toxic cleaning products, such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and vinegar.
- Don’t immediately hang dry-cleaned clothing in your closet. Instead, hang them outside for a day or two. Better yet, see if there’s an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city that uses some of the newer dry-cleaning technologies, such as liquid CO2.
- Use safer personal-care products. Avoid aerosols and look for VOC-free cleaners.
- Avoid commercial air fresheners and scented candles, which can release literally thousands of different chemicals into your breathing space.
- Vacuum and shampoo/mop carpets, rugs, and floors regularly. Every time a person walks across the floor, a whirlwind of irritants is stirred up.
- Upgrade your furnace filters. Modern filters are better at efficiently trapping particulates. Additionally, have your furnace and air conditioning ductwork and chimney cleaned regularly.
- Avoid storing paints, adhesives, solvents, and other harsh chemicals in your house or in an attached garage.
- Avoid using non-stick cookware. Ceramic cookware is a good alternative.
- Ensure your combustion appliances are properly vented.
- Opt for safer and more eco-friendly materials, such as VOC-friendly paints, when building or remodeling.
- Opt for sustainable hardwood flooring instead of carpet. Carpet traps a multitude of particles such as pet dander, heavy metals, and all sorts of allergens. If you choose to install carpet, look for one labeled “VOC-free” to avoid toxic outgassing.
- Make sure your house has proper drainage and a sealed foundation.
- Control pests by sealing cracks, crevices, and leaks. Properly store food and avoid leaving it out for any length of time.
When to Contact Precision
If you have experienced any of the following issues, please call Precision at
- Asthma, allergies, and/or other respiratory problems
- Sore throat, colds and/or flu
- Memory loss, dizziness, fatigue and/or depression