Although we may not think of it often, indoor air quality is something that affects all of us every day! The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks poor indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health, which inspired this blog.
It’s logical to think that since many pollutants are outdoors, the air in our homes is naturally cleaner. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the EPA estimates that indoor air pollutants are typically 2 to 5 times greater than outdoor pollutant levels. Poor indoor air quality can cause a number of health issues, including lung infections, asthma, headaches, dry eyes and nasal congestion, just to name a few.
It is estimated that the American spends 90% of their day indoors. Take these steps to help improve your indoor air quality and breathe easy in your home.
- Keep the floors clean. Chemicals and allergens accumulate in your home over time and eventually find their way onto the floor. Depending on the amount of occupants and foot traffic in your home, try to vacuum your carpets every other day to get rid of them. In especially high traffic areas, vacuum the same area a few times to eliminate pollutants that have gotten deep into the carpeting. Make sure to hit the spots where dust accumulates as well, including carpet edges, walls and upholstered furniture. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can also reduce the number of harmful allergens in your home. If you have floor mats or rugs, be sure to shake it outside before vacuuming to get rid of the larger particles first!
- Control the humidity level. Dust mites and mold thrive in humid environments where moisture is constantly present. Keeping humidity levels between 30%-50% can help keep dust and other allergens such as pollen from getting out of control. Air conditioning can help control these levels during the summer and a dehumidifier will help maintain a proper humidity level during the winter. Utilize your home’s exhaust fans while bathing, doing dishes or anything else that creates moisture to help wick away humidity and keep your home relatively dry.
- Keep out smoke! One of the largest contributing factors to poor indoor air quality is the presence of secondhand smoke. Outdoor smoking is better than indoor smoking… but even outdoor smoking can impact indoor air quality! Smoke and chemicals linger on clothes and latch onto floors or furniture upon entering the home. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, many of which don’t dissipate quickly over time without being cleaned or vacuumed.
- Eliminate air fresheners. Although air fresheners and deodorizers make our home smell clean, many of them emit dozens pollutants into the indoor air. Synthetic fragrances such as plug-in air fresheners, deodorizing sprays and even candles contain oil that emits small amounts of gases that pollute the air. Most types of synthetic fragrances are petroleum based and usually aren’t tested to see what type of affect they have on people when inhaled. To keep your home smelling fresh without all the added pollutants, look for products that are ‘fragrance-free’ or ‘naturally scented.’ Open your windows whenever possible to allow fresh air to sweep your home of pollutants and buildup from these harmful chemicals.
- Check for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that significantly raises our risk of lung cancer. It’s virtually undetectable without testing for it. Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural decay uranium found in the soil. This means that no matter the age of your home, radon could leak in from anywhere. Radon test kits are generally inexpensive (between $10 and $15) and are available at most hardware stores. Radon tests should be conducted in your home every 2-5 years or any time there is a major renovation project in your home.
- Replace your HVAC unit’s air filter regularly. Most HVAC or furnace filters are disposable and designed to trap pollutants or other unwanted particles. Homeowners should change air filters every three months, but other factors could warrant changing the filter sooner. Household pets, large families, indoor smoke or living near a heavily wooded area can all lead to an increase in dander. Homeowners with any of these situations should check their air filter monthly to prevent major buildup of pollutants. Not only will a fresh air filter cut down on unwanted indoor particles, but also ensure that your furnace receives optimal airflow and runs smoothly.
- Get your air ducts cleaned! Dirt and pollutants can build up in your air ducts over time. A professional duct cleaning cleans out the supply, intake, and return ducts, as well as the air handler, registers, fans, motors, housings, and coils of the HVAC system.
Has your family been experiencing an increase in allergies or sickness lately? If you’ve tried these steps and don’t notice an improvement in the air, give Pearson a call. We offer a number of services that can help restore clean air in your home.