Indoor Air Quality
Could the air inside your home be making your family sick? Newer homes are designed to seal out the elements, but all that weather-stripping and insulation also keep pollutants, toxins, and allergens trapped inside your home, which can lead to poor indoor air quality. Here are a few of the dangers you should be aware of.
Carbon Monoxide Kills
Image via Flickr by Julie70 Joyoflife
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas released by combustion, so your furnace, water heater, and gas stove are all sources of this odorless, colorless gas. CO detectors will warn you if the air contains deadly levels of CO, but lower levels are not good for your health either. CO can cause headaches, nausea, and confusion, and kills about 500 people per year in the U.S. Your best defense against CO is to have detectors near all your combustive appliances, open your windows occasionally, and have your appliances and chimney professionally serviced and inspected regularly.
Radon Causes Lung Cancer
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoke, which means it kills thousands of Americans every year. The odorless, colorless gas is a byproduct of decaying uranium in the soil. Radon normally evaporates into the air outdoors, but it can leak into your basement and get trapped in your home. The gas is odorless and colorless, so the only way to know if your home is safe is to test it for radon.
Your Carpet Might Be Off-Gassing
Many of the building materials in modern construction, including carpets, paints, upholstery fabrics, and composite wood items, off-gas harmful chemicals like acetone, formaldehyde, and benzene. These toxins can build up in your indoor air when your windows and doors are closed. Following good indoor air-quality practices, like ventilating well and including living plants in your decor, can help reduce the concentration of these chemicals.
Pet dander, dust, pollen, and mold spores can also become concentrated indoors. These irritants are all made of relatively large particles, so they’re easier to control than gases. A HEPA filtration air purifier will trap most of them effectively. Removing your shoes at the front door will stop pollen from being tracked into the house. Dusting and vacuuming often and bathing pets is also helpful. Dust mites (whose droppings are the cause of most dust allergy symptoms) like to live in human bedding, so encasing your mattress and pillows in mite-proof covers is necessary if you have a dust allergy.
Cleaners Can Be Toxic
Many cleaners are loaded with ingredients that are known to cause cancer and disrupt hormones. The best way to avoid toxic cleaning ingredients is to use vinegar, baking soda, or water on a microfiber cloth to clean as much of your house as possible. Try to open windows when you’re using harsher products.
Improving air quality is an ongoing project in most households. Keeping your floors clean, changing HVAC filters regularly, and opening the windows often will help to keep your indoor air healthy and fresh.
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