12 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality
All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.
- Test your Indoor Air Quality. The first step is to purchase a comprehensive air testing kit that will give you a complete breakdown of your air makeup, helping you decide where problem areas lie. These tests and are a great starting point for improving the air quality in your home, giving you an idea of which areas to tackle first. The ExaminAir is a "state of the art" professional allergen and mold test kit. that is designed for "do it yourself " use with quality results. Learn more
- Make your home smoke-free. Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), often known as "second hand smoke," is very harmful and can lead to serious health problems such as chronic sinusitis and lung cancer in adults and lower respiratory tract infections in children. Taking smoking outside reduces concentrations of toxic chemicals and carcinogens found in ETS and is an important factor in improving indoor air quality in the home or office.
- Improving ventilation improves indoor air quality. This can easily be done by leaving doors between rooms open as well as opening windows whenever possible. Exhaust fans should be used in bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms to vent moisture and chemicals directed outdoors. Quiet, energy-efficient fans can be used for these applications.
- Control household humidity levels. Keeping low humidity levels is important in controlling the growth of toxic mold and other biological contaminants. This can be done by eliminating water leaks and sources of standing water. Also use your air conditioner, and install dehumidifiers in problem areas such as basements. Keep the dehumidifier clean and free from mold, as they can become sources of pollution if contaminated. If you live in a high humidity part of the country, home mold testing is recommended to ensure clean air.
- Have your HVAC system cleaned. Much more important than cleaning your duct work is having your HVAC system cleaned. Your A/C drip pan could be holding water and growing mold which will then be blown directly into your air ducts and out through the vents. The blowers for your HVAC may not have been cleaned in years, and could have built up dirt and dust and could also be harboring dust mites and toxic molds. Lastly, the condenser coils may have rust and corrosion buildup, which is not only harmful to air quality, but also decreases your HVAC system's efficiency, increasing energy costs. A thorough furnace and A/C system cleaning varies greatly in price from company to company, but this can improve your HVAC systems cooling and heating efficiency and save you money in the long run.
- Prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Any fuel-burning household appliance (gas stoves, hot water heaters, clothes dryers, etc.) can potentially release harmful chemicals as byproducts of combustion. All such appliances should be inspected by a qualified technician once a year. You should also monitor the indoor air quality of your home by installing Carbon Monoxide detectors, especially near bedrooms.
- Clean and Vacuum Regularly. Airborne dust particles, microscopic insect droppings, and mold spores cause allergic reactions and asthma outbreaks. Cleaning regularly can help greatly in controlling indoor air quality. Vacuum rugs and carpets at least once a week. Consider a vacuum equipped with an allergen reducer or HEPA filter, which prevents reintroducing allergens and fine particles back into the air. Wipe down or dust any hard surfaces regularly, and clean up mold near sinks, water pipes, or bathtubs immediately to prevent releasing allergenic or toxic spores into the air.
- Control Dust Mites. To combat the growth of dust mites, a common cause of indoor allergy symptoms, bedding should always be washed in hot water (at least 130° F). You might consider using allergen-free cases on your mattresses and pillows. Your children's blankets and stuffed toys can harbor dust mites as well-be sure to wash them regularly in hot water to keep your children safe from allergies and asthma triggers.
- Put a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter in your air handling system. Using a HEPA Filter with help keep particles out of the air and off of the ductwork of your heating and cooling systems. Filters should be replaced with regularity, every 1-2 months depending on how much the system is running. Proper use and maintenance will help improve indoor air quality and increase time between necessary Air Duct Cleanings. Learn more
- Exhaust Gas Appliances. Be sure that gas stoves are fitted with a hood fan that exhausts directly outside. Using a hood fan and/or an open window while cooking will help improve indoor air quality, and prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) contamination.
- Be aware of toxic chemicals found in household cleaning products and pesticides. Use only according to manufacturers' directions and keep your house well ventilated while using. In order to help preserve your home's indoor air quality, store harmful chemicals and volatile compounds (paints, solvents, cleaners and pesticides) away from occupied spaces and air ventilation intakes. If you have aggravated sensitivity to certain chemicals, consider a home air cleaner with gas-phase filtration to keep chemical concentrations from reaching irritating levels. or information on alternative cleaning products request or new N.E.E.D.S. Environmental Wellness Catalog
- Purchase a home air purifier.Running an air purifier in your home will help keep indoor pollutants at low levels. Used in conjunction with the HEPA filter you've added to your heating and cooling system (Step 9), a home air cleaner using HEPA filter technology, activated carbon, or a hybrid of these technologies can keep the air in your home clean and healthy.