When you think of pollution, your mind may conjure images of car exhaust fumes and toxic factory smoke clouding the sky. But your sanctuary – the indoor space you call home – is two to five times more toxic than your outdoor environment? At least that is what the Environmental Protection Agency reports. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make your home less toxic by taking steps to reduce indoor air pollution. The World Health Organization attributes three percent of the world’s burden of diseases on indoor air pollution. And with 80 percent of all cancers linked to environmental factors rather than genetic ones, it’s ever the more important to consider every aspect of your surroundings and make sure that it isn’t hurting more than it is helping you.
Humans reportedly spend nearly 90 percent of their time indoors and are exposed to a host of toxic materials, from mold, synthetic chemicals in cleaning supplies, carbon monoxide from cooking and heating, tobacco smoke, formaldehyde from pressed wood used for shelving and furniture, and other chemicals in house paint, glue, and insulation. The list goes on and on. And while you may not be able to eliminate your home of all toxins, you can take active steps to significantly decrease the load.
- Improve Ventilation – To reduce the concentration of indoor pollutants in your home, it is important to increase the flow of outdoor air coming indoors. Ventilation helps to remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants coming from indoor sources. Most homes are equipped with heating and cooling systems that don’t allow outdoor air to enter indoors. To remedy this, try keeping a few windows ajar, weather permitting, or install local bathroom and kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors and thus transfer contaminants from the inside of your home, to the outside. Another approach would be to install a mechanical system that brings outdoor air into the home. Indoor air quality can get particularly poor if indoor air is humid, because humid air is ideal for bacteria and other airborne contaminants to thrive. Purchase a dehumidifier and keep it on in whichever room you spend the most time in, or next to your bed while you are asleep, to improve air quality.
- Toss the Obvious Culprits – Take inventory of each room in your house and take notes. What feels wrong? What feels synthetic? Pay extra close attention to the kitchen and bathroom. If you are having trouble identifying the culprits (it’s not always that obvious), hire a professional to test your house for molds and toxins. Replace mainstream harsh cleaning products with eco-friendly varieties. Use toxic free paints, replace carpets where bacteria and mold can bury, and embrace hard-wood floors.
- Get an Air Cleaner – There are plenty of air cleaners to choose from, and it requires a lot of research before you pick the one right for you. Mechanical air filters and electronic air cleaners remove particles form the air by capturing them in their filters. Gas-phase air filters remove gaseous pollutants with the help of sorbent, which adsorbs pollutants. Meanwhile, ultraviolet (UV) germicidal irradiation and photo-catalytic oxidation cleaners use UV light to destroy viruses, bacteria, allergens, molds, and/or gaseous pollutants.