You get home from work, it’s time to relax, kick up your feet and take a deep breathe, right? Or is that deep breathe filled with toxins released from products in your home? We all worry about outdoor air pollution from bumper-to-bumper traffic, smokestacks, agricultural chemicals blowing in the wind, but we often forget about the sources that can be hidden in our own home.
The truth is air pollution in your own home may be just as bad. Considering the average American spends 87% of their life indoors, you would think indoor air quality would be something we would hear about more often. But don’t panic, there are a few simple things you can do to greatly improve the air quality in your home.
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) are widely used chemicals in many household products. Formaldehyde, being one of the best know culprits. Sources include paints, varnishes, cleaning products, aerosol sprays, carpet, cosmetics, hobby supplies, tap water and dry-cleaned clothing. They can cause health effects such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system and sometimes even cancer. So how can we reduce the use of these chemicals in our home?
- Increase ventilation when using products with known VOC’s.
- Store unused chemicals or paints in the garage or shed.
- Appropriately dispose of unused chemicals that are not being used.
- Consider buying low-VOC products for paints and furniture.
- Use cosmetics that are EWG certified.
- Buy a water filter (this is the one I have in my house and I love it)
Radon is a radioactive gas, that is naturally released in well water, soil and rock in certain areas and also by some building materials made from earth or stone. With prolonged exposure it can increase your risk of lung cancer. If there is radon below your house it can seep up through cracks in your foundation, openings around pipes and gaps in floorboards. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. What can you do?
- Have your home tested for radon – it’s easy and inexpensive
- Seal cracks in floors and walls
- Increase air flow throughout your home
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. It cannot be detected by our senses. If you are exposed to the CO gas, it displaces the oxygen in your lungs and leads to poisoning. The CDC estimates that approximately 400 people die each year in the U.S. from unintentional CO exposure. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness. Simple measures can help prevent CO poisoning.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors
- Use gas appliances as recommended – ventilate your gas stove
- Open garage door before starting your car
- Keep fireplaces in good repair – clean chimney and flue each year
- Use caution when working with solvents in closed areas
Decreasing your indoor pollution may have not been on your radar, but it should not be ignored. Work on changing a few things at a time. Below is a list of places you can start.
Simple steps to decrease your risk
- Use craft supplies in well vented areas
- Remove carpet if possible
- Test your home for radon
- Buy solid wood furniture – no particle board
- Use a carbon monoxide detector
- Avoid air fresheners- instead try a diffuser
- Clean duct work in home yearly
- Wear clothes that don’t require dry cleaning
- Buy a water filter
If you would like more information on the health effects of certain products in your home, check out this website. It has lots of great information.