7 Tips for Fresh Indoor Air
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, air inside the average home is two to five times more polluted than the air outside, largely due to toxic household cleaners. Given that we spend approximately 90 percent of our time inside, it's important to eliminate or manage the sources of indoor air pollution.
Some of those sources include new carpet; paint; mold and mildew (particularly in ventilation systems); tobacco smoke; synthetic fragrance from air fresheners and candles; copy machine chemicals; personal care products, asbestos, pesticides, and pressed-wood products like particleboard, plywood paneling, and fiber-board.
Exposure to airborne toxins can lead to serious health problems, including organ defects in fetuses; asthma, attention deficit and hyperactivity, autism, leukemia, and other cancers.
To keep your indoor air as clean as possible, follow these tips:
- Circulate the air. Wherever possible, crack windows open every now and then. If you install new carpeting or cabinets at home or in the office, open windows and turn on fans until the smells dissipate. Make sure that copying machines and other equipment are located in rooms that are properly ventilated.
- Consider natural products. Many chemically-sensitive consumers opt for carpet made from wool or cotton rather than synthetic fibers; others choose cabinets made from solid wood and finished with water-based varnishes rather than those constructed from particleboard or fiberboard.
- Avoid synthetic fragrances. Rather than use synthetic air fresheners to mask an unpleasant odor, find the source of the odor, and clean it up. Then open the windows for fresh air, or use flowers or essential oils to add a more natural scent to your room. If necessary, install air filters and purifiers and other air cleaning devices.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside. It's not unreasonable to ask visitors to your home to take smoking breaks outside. Many offices have already instituted a smoking policy that minimizes nonsmoker exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; if yours hasn't, broach the topic with your office manager.
- Speak up. If you or others at your office are experiencing health or comfort problems that you suspect may be caused by indoor air pollution, discuss the issue with your supervisor. Talk with your physician, log medical issues, and report your problems to the company health or human resources officer or union official so that they can make appropriate changes. You can also contact the Centers for Disease Control to request an inspection.
- Buy plants. Depending on the species, one house plant can provide effective cleaning for every 100 square feet of space. For example, between 15 and 20 golden pothos and spider plants can refresh the air in an average 1,800 square-foot home.
- Hire the professionals. It's best to hire professionals to clean the places where indoor air pollutants commonly hide: HVAC systems, fireplaces, and waterlogged carpets. Follow manufacturer recommendations for regular maintenance too.