Green living is synonymous with healthy living. And, during the winter when we are hybernating in our homes, our indoor air quality is something to think about. Did you know that the air inside our homes can be ten times as toxic as outdoor air? The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Asthma rates are on an alarming rise, affecting 20 million people in the US alone! Sadly, the largest growth rate of asthma cases has been in children under the age of five. Let’s take a look at the components commonly found in our indoor air and then we’ll suggest some ways to fight them.
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VOC – store all paints and varnishes in the garage or away from the home. Use natural plant-based cleaning agents and solutions. Paint walls and woodwork with a natural no-VOC paint. Capture chemical particles in your air through specialized filters. These carbon filters absorb chemical compounds from the air and some also include zeolite, a porous mineral that helps with absorption of even the smallest particles.
Mold – mold spores thrive in moist conditions. Make sure any leaks around your home’s foundation, windows, doors and roof are repaired immediately. A crawlspace should have a layer of plastic over the ground to eliminate moisture rising from the soil. Keep bathrooms and laundry rooms well ventilated to prevent high humidity. Use a dehumidifier for moist areas of your home including basements. Make sure your attic is well insulated to prevent condensation. A quality HEPA air purifier should screen mold spores as small as .3 to .1 microns.
Radon – test your home for radon gas. You can get a test kit from most home improvement centers for around $10 which you then send to a lab which will cost about $30 for the results. Or, visit the EPA’s website for a list of every state’s agency that assists in radon testing as well as resources to fix your radon problems: www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html. Most state health offices offer reduced pricing or free test kits. Radon levels above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air) should be addressed immediately.
Smoke – if you must smoke, consider using an air filter or purifier. Don’t smoke when children are present and provide some ventilation through an open window if possible. Never smoke in the car with children.
Pet Dander – cleaning often will help prevent these particles from wandering from location to location. Use a spray cleaner (preferably a natural plant-based product) to moisten surfaces before wiping. This will keep the particles from becoming airborne again. Purchase quality furnace filters and change them often, especially in the winter (once a month at a minimum). Consider a reuseable furnace filter. These filters can be washed frequently, will last a lifetime and will actually save you money over time. Have your furnace and ductwork cleaned by a professional annually. Limit pets to certain rooms and keep them off of the furniture and beds if possible.
Dust mites – wash your bed sheets and blankets often (once a week). Cover mattresses in dust-proof and/or removable covers. Use pillow covers that can be removed and washed with the sheets. Consider buying wool pillows and comforters that are more resistant to dust mites. Buy washable stuffed toys and keep them off of the bed. Vaccum the carpet AND furniture fabric frequently. Change vacuum filters at three-fourths full or sooner.