Given that the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors, it’s important to make sure the air inside your home is healthy. While dust, pollen, secondhand smoke and pet dander are the most common pollutants, there are more toxic contaminants like radon, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from household products, paint, carpets and furniture, which can pollute your living environment. Luckily there are some simple fixes to improving the quality of the air you breathe.
“In general, a cleaner house is less prone to air-quality problems,” says Joe Boatman, PhD, owner of Quality Environmental Services in Boulder, Colorado. Boatman’s job is to assess indoor air quality for residents with health concerns, or for home buyers wanting to ensure their new home purchase is safe.
For those experiencing frequent health issues in their home, Boatman recommends a whole-house ultraviolet-light sterilizing system installed in the furnace to kill bacteria and viruses. For everyone else, the following suggestions will help improve your indoor air quality this winter so you can breathe a sigh of relief.
KEEP IT CLEAN
- Use a pleated style of air filter for your furnace. These do a better job at filtering out harmful particulates, and should be replaced every three months.
- Vacuum twice a week. Chemicals and allergens can accumulate in dust for decades. Use a vacuum with a certified HEPA filter to get rid of dust, pet dander and other airborne particulates.
- Sweep, mop and clean surfaces regularly. Use cleaning products formulated without chemical toxins. Microfiber mops and dust cloths can capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers and don’t require cleaning solutions.
- Regularly launder your linens. Wash linens at least once a week, including bedding, blankets and duvets.
- Keep your home properly ventilated. Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Open windows when possible for cross ventilation.
- Put doormats and rugs at every entrance. To trap chemicals and pollutants you may track in from shoes, have doormats inside and remove your shoes at the door.
- Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Check your heating appliances before each winter season and replace all filters regularly. Install a carbon monoxide filter to monitor levels in your home. And don’t leave your car running in an attached garage with the door to the house open.
- Control the humidity in your home. A humidifier may be the answer to dry, stale air, but too much humidity can lead to rot, mold spores and condensation. Boatman recommends staying away from whole-house humidifiers and using only steam humidifiers.
- Test for radon. Radon is a naturally occurring invisible gas that has been shown to cause lung cancer. If you do have radon in your home, it is relatively easy and inexpensive to mitigate.
- Check your local government for free testing. Some local governments offer a free indoor air-quality assessment to test for radon as well as potential mold and moisture problems.