It can be hard to imagine with the beautiful weather we have been having lately, but Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors and indoor air pollution is one of the leading causes of health problems in the United States.
Here are 10 steps you can take to cleaner indoor air.
1. Ventilate! My grandmother had it right when she opened all the windows in the house for about 10 minutes every morning, regardless of how hot or cold it was outside. Make sure your home has adequate ventilation… especially for gas appliances, furnace, fireplaces, bathrooms. Open windows as much as possible.
2. If you have allergies to whatever is going on outside you may not have the option of opening the windows during certain seasons. An air cleaner could be an option, but avoid one that produces ozone, a gas that can cause health problems by affecting your lungs and respiratory system.
3. Eliminate as many moisture sources as possible and use dehumidifiers and exhaust fans to reduce the risk of mold and mildew. You may also consider an air-to-air exchanger, which exchanges indoor air (which may be stale, moist, polluted) with fresh outdoor air. These are often found in newer, tight buildings.
4. Replace and/or clean heating and cooling filters regularly, depending on your type of filtration system. Check out considerations from the EPA about whether to have your air ducts cleaned.
5. Test for radon gas and remediate if indicated. According to local inspectors, about 40% of homes tested in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have unacceptable levels of radon, the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.
6. Do not allow tobacco smoke in your home.
7. Beware of toxins in household chemicals and pesticides. Clean with nontoxic products. Natural products such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice can be used to make your own cleaning products and non-toxic commercial products are also available.
8. Vacuum carpets, rugs and upholstery often to remove dust, pet dander and other pollutants. Look for a vacuum cleaner that captures dust and does not blow it back into the air, such as Dyson vacuums that have been found to reduce allergen particles. When deep cleaning, avoid detergents which also leave residue and check into cleaning systems such as Zerorez which use no chemicals.
9. Remove mold. There are a number of products and solutions you can use to kill and remove mold. Bleach is probably the most commonly been recommended, but be careful not to mix it with ammonia or acids because it can create a deadly gas. There are also less toxic cleaners which kill mold, such as hydrogen peroxide.
10. Be as scent-free as you can. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, more than 70% of allergy sufferers develop allergy symptoms when exposed to scents.
11. Back to #1…ventilate, ventilate, ventilate! Be aware that many new products contain formaldehyde and other toxins… such as carpets, pads and adhesives, pressed wood products, paints, remodeling products, sizing in fabrics, inks in printed products. When present indoors, be sure to have adequate ventilation.
See Help Yourself to a Healthy Home, a 58-page online booklet from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, for helpful information on indoor air quality, asthma & allergies, mold & moisture, carbon monoxide, lead, drinking water, hazardous household products, pesticides and home safety.