6 Tips To Improve Indoor Air Quality

BY ON January 29, 2013

Nicely decorated room

Just outside my window the ground is covered with a light dusting of fresh snow. Last check, the outdoor thermometer read a chilly 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the doors and windows tightly closed is a necessity as the winter months settle in.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) people spend 90 percent or more of their time indoors. Newer homes are designed to be well insulated and energy efficient, allowing for very few air exchanges between indoor and outdoor air. With the doors and windows of our homes tightly shut another problem brewing inside: air pollution. We generally think of air pollution as an outdoor problem stemming from car exhaust, emissions and other toxins, however indoor air can be polluted too.

Indoor air pollution

There’s a growing body of scientific evidence confirming air pollution in our homes can be much worse than in outdoor air pollution. Toxic chemicals are everywhere. As parents most of us do our best to keep our kids safe, but unfortunately it’s not always easy or within our control. We are all exposed to toxic chemicals on a daily basis through a variety of consumer products found in our homes.

Hundreds of toxic chemicals, including pesticides, fire retardants and PCBs, can be found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns, according to studies by the Environmental Working Group. No surprise there – our homes are filled with toxins. Our mattresses are filled with toxic chemicals and our couches are filled with cancer-causing chemicals.

What can you do to improve indoor air quality in your home?

1. No VOC’s - Most conventional paints contain high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s), which emit a breathable gas when slapped on your walls. VOC’s are not your friend. Once released, down goes the air quality in your home and headaches, nausea and dizziness can occur. Long term exposures to the fumes have been linked to a number of disorders including cancer, kidney disease and liver damage. The next time you plan to paint, consider choosing a low VOC or no VOC paint that is free of nasty fumes.

2. Avoid Synthetic Scents - Air fresheners, cleaning supplies and other scented products can contribute to indoor air pollution. Read labels and find products without toxic chemicals and synthetic “fragrance.”

3. Test for Radon – You can’t see or smell radon but it could be in your home. Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and seeps into your home and the air you breathe. Testing is inexpensive and simple and the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. January is National Radon Action Month.

4. No Smoking Zone - Tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. Children exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke are at increased risk for ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Make your home a no smoking zone.

5. Take Your Shoes Off at the Door - Declare your home a “shoe free” zone.  Shoes track into the home all sorts of toxins from the outside that could impact your indoor air quality. Asking family and guests to take off their shoes before they enter your home will create a healthier, safer environment for all.

6. Houseplants Help Clean the Air – Many common houseplants act as an air filter, removing toxins from the air we breathe. They are known to produce oxygen from CO2 and they absorb toxins including benzene (gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics, and rubber), formaldehyde and/or trichloroethylene (printing inks, paints, lacquers, varnishes, and adhesives). A few years back NASA recommended to use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house.

Unfortunately, many toxins are unregulated in this country and can make their way into our homes without our knowledge. 

This needs to change.

Tell the Senate to Pass Stronger Toxic Chemical Standards

 Photo credit: TobiasMik · WhatWeDo via photopin cc

TOPICS: Asthma, Cancer, EPA, Indoor Air Pollution, Pollution, Pregnancy, Toxics

  • Lindsay

    Great post Lori, such great tips for the winter. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in our indoor air? All the more reason we need Congress to get serious about passing the Safe Chemicals Act!

  • Lori Alper

    Thanks Lindsay! Yes, we need the Safe Chemicals Act to pass. No one should have to worry about toxins in their indoor or outdoor air!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Ringer/100003355812872 Matt Ringer

    The effects of poor indoor air quality include eye irritations, respiratory infections, sinus problems, headaches, asthma and allergies. An all-natural paint additive has been developed, that, turns any newly painted wall in your home or business, into a permanent air, purification system no electricity or filters required. The Air-ReNu, technology permanently maintains healthy indoor air quality and removes offensive odors. Air-ReNu, is safe, effective and permanent.

  • Jenny Baptiste

    The more I read, the more I am terrified of my house poisoning me! LOL. With regards to houseplants filtering air I wrote an article outlining which types of plants help filter carcinogenic VOCs http://easyhealthfitness.com/house-plants-that-filter-vocs/. By the way I love the blog!

  • http://www.facebook.com/freedom.run.92 Freedom Run

    Just here to tell you, that we support your efforts here in Europe! Toxins do not recognize any boundaries and they eventually end up on the other side of the Earth. We can do better than this! Tell your governments and change your own habits, then we can make a difference together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/freedom.run.92 Freedom Run

    Here is a good site, I want to share with you:

    http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/

  • http://www.facebook.com/guduru.karthik Guduru Karthik

    this is a good set of list of thing to improve indoor air quality . i just got to know that their are several different types of airpurifiers and not all do the same job. http://www.airconcern.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-different-types-of-indoor-air-purifiers

  • Jackson Leavitt

    I could be much better at doing this. Except, I think that the air quality in Glenview, IL is overall pretty bad. Hopefully things improve.