Indoor Air Quality : How to Make Your Home Healthier

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Indoor Air Quality Image by lh via Flickr Creative Commons license.
Image by lh via Flickr Creative Commons license.

Poor indoor air quality is more of a problem than you may realize. In fact, research has shown indoor air can be deadlier than outdoor air. Of course outdoor air quality is a serious concern too. The number of cities around the world being plagued with high levels of air pollution continues to rise. China has made headlines countless times for its air quality and Forbes recently reported the poor air quality in London is having a dramatic effect on commuters. In its first annual State of Global Air Report the Health Effects Institute states, “Air pollution is the leading environmental cause of death worldwide.” The report on to say, “…92% of the world’s population lives in areas with unhealthy air.”

What can we do about it? Well, we can improve indoor air quality. Years ago the EPA funded a study which uncovered the fact that Americans spend an average of 87% of their day indoors. Another 6% of their time is spent in closed vehicles. While we hope more people are spending time outdoors and enjoying nature a lot more often, indoor air quality is still a big problem. So let’s go over some of the main sources, health problems which may arise and solutions for improving indoor air quality.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution can be caused by various sources. Some you may be familiar with and others you might not even realize. A few of the more common sources of indoor air pollution include:

  • Wood
  • Heating oil
  • Coal
  • Gasoline
  • Tobacco products
  • Household cleaning chemicals
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC)
  • Candles
  • Personal hygiene and care products
  • Treated furniture
  • Paint
  • Carpets
  • Bedding
  • Pesticides

Each of these can be listed as a source of poor indoor air quality, particularly when toxic, non-organic materials and products are used. This is why checking labels and opting for natural products is so important. Poor ventilation can be quite problematic as well. This can let in outdoor air pollution stemming from vehicle emissions, local industry and more.

Health Problems Related to Indoor Air Pollution

Although you may not immediately notice the effects of indoor air pollution, the potential health problems can be significant and long-lasting. The EPA lists some of the possible health problems related to indoor air quality as:

Shorter-Term

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose and/or throat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to focus or concentration
  • Breathing problems
  • Asthma

Longer-Term

  • Respiratory disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

Fortunately, many of the short-term effects can be reversed in short order. If you take a few simple actions, you may be able to significantly improve the indoor air quality of your home and make it a healthier place for you and your family to live.

Indoor Air Quality: What You Can Do About It

Improving indoor air quality really starts with a few simple actions. From there you can move on to making more substantial changes. For example, start by airing out your home regularly. Open your windows and doors to let the fresh air in and stale air out. Even though the air outside may contain pollutants, the volume is going to be considerable less than what has been accumulating in your home. Next, get rid of cleaning products containing harmful toxins. Using these only serves to lower indoor air quality, not improve it. You can either buy or make your own non-toxic cleaners.

When you go to buy new furniture, read the labels to find out whether it has been treated with potentially harmful chemicals or not. If you plan to paint, choose low-voc (volatile organic compounds) paints. Dust your home often, clean your vents and consider using an air purifier to help remove pollutants from the air. Adding in a few green plants can also help improve indoor air quality. Those who use home heating oil can buy our Green Plus® product to use in reducing harmful emissions.

Start with these and move on from there. It won’t take much to get you started, but your family will thank you for it.

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