Eco-Friendly Ways To Improve Your Home's Air Quality
We spend a lot of time worrying about outdoor air quality and how smog, car emissions and factory pollutants are affecting our health; however, we should also take the time to consider improving the air we breathe while we’re indoors, where most people spend nearly 90-percent of their day.
Whether we’re working in offices, sitting in a classroom, resting, cooking or sleeping at home, we are exposed to hazardous air pollutants, which are present in higher levels of concentration than outdoor pollutants. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the average person receives 72-percent of their chemical exposure while at home.
The main culprits of poor indoor air quality are chemicals, particulates and mold, which can all be exacerbated by poor ventilation. All can contribute to a wide range of negative health effects.
- Chemicals and particulates. The primary sources of indoor air pollutants are products commonly used in your home. Emitted from furniture, building materials and other household cleansers, particulates can lead to allergies and other respiratory issues. By continuing to use products that are known to release VOCs (volatile organic compounds), long-term exposure can lead to headaches, loss of coordination and, in severe cases, damage to the liver, kidneys and nervous system.
- Mold. An often overlooked cause of many health issues, like allergies and respiratory infections, mold is another major factor in poor indoor air quality. Regulating humidity in your home can help prevent mold and mildew from growing and spreading.
- Poor ventilation. Homes are designed to seal in heat or cool air, to help regulate temperature; however, the lack of airflow only concentrates pollutants and pathogens circulating and re-circulating in your home.
The EPA recommends three basic strategies to improve indoor air quality: source control, improved ventilation and air purification. All of these suggestions are easy to implement and are environmentally-friendly.
Control the source of the pollutants:
- Don’t smoke indoors. A major source of indoor air pollution, tobacco smoke contains over 200 known poisons, including formaldehyde and carbon monoxide, and is a knowncause of cancer. Smoke is also responsible for pneumonia, asthma and lower respiratory tract infections, especially in children. By not smoking indoors, you can keep those poisons and cancer-causing agents from circulating within your home.
- Clean house. By the simple act of cleaning your house, you can greatly improve your air quality indoors. Remove dust and dirt that’s accumulated on surfaces (don’t forget the top of the refrigerator). By doing this, you are removing the particles that trigger allergy attacks or compromise immune systems. Reduce allergens and irritants by keeping your home clean.
- Use environmentally-friendly cleaners. When you are cleaning your home, ditch the abrasive chemical cleansers. Find natural alternatives to clean your home with, instead of using bleach and ammonia-laden items to reduce the number of harmful chemicals entering your airflow.
- Get rid of carpets and rugs (if possible). Carpets and rugs collect mites, dust, dirt and dander—all of which can trigger allergic reactions and contribute to poor indoor air quality. If you want to hang on to the carpeting, be sure to vacuum frequently (using a vacuum with HEPA filters).
- Invest in environmentally friendly items. Invest in things such as eco friendly fans or smoke free and hassle free modern fireplaces. It will improve your air quality and you will not have to deal with smoke from a wood burning fireplace.
Open windows as weather permits. The air in our homes can be anywhere from two-times to 100-times more polluted than outdoor air. Lack of ventilation concentrates pollutants and pathogens into a small area, and we end up exposing ourselves for prolonged periods of time as we cook, watch TV, eat, sleep and (for some) work at home.
Purify the air:
Diffuse essential oils for aromatherapy.Aromatherapy does more than just fill your home with fantastic scents. Essential oil aromatherapy not only helps reduce stress and improve your mood, but also has been shown to have antibacterial, anti-parasitic and anti-fungal properties. Studies have shown that certain essential oils actually interfere with the reproductive ability of viruses and bacteria.
By diffusing essential oils throughout your home, you can remove harmful pathogens that can cause illness. Lemon, grapefruit, tea tree or peppermint oils are some scents that have been found to kill pathogens.
Add indoor plants to your home. Plants are considered to be nature’s air purifiers because they can filter harmful toxins out of the air and produce oxygen. A great indoor plant option would be the peace lily, which is known to filter out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and other contaminants.
Improving your indoor air quality doesn’t necessarily mean investing in expensive filters or living in a vacuum. These easy, eco-friendly tips will make the air in your house much easier—and healthier—to breathe.
Naomi Shaw is a journalist who lives in California with her husband and three children. She has been in the home decor and renovation business for quite some time and every chance she gets she tries to improve her home for her familys health and go green.
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