When a brown layer of air seems to have taken up residence around your city or town, you might think you're better off staying inside to avoid indoor air pollution. But that's not necessarily true.
A five-year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found the concentrations of 20 toxic compounds to be as much as 200 times higher in the air inside homes and offices than outdoors. Poor air circulation is partly to blame for indoor air pollution — and it worsens in colder months. Plus, newer homes tend to be more airtight than older ones. That means they exchange less air with the outside, which can be good and bad. A tighter house loses less heat to the outdoors, yet it also holds indoor toxins longer.
Chemicals Seep into Air from Dry Cleaning and Furniture
Unburned hydrocarbons from cooking, exhaust fumes from attached garages, formaldehyde from particle-board cabinets and furniture, and perchloroethylene from dry cleaning are constituents in the chemical mixture we breathe in every day. When these indoor air pollutants get trapped in the house, they can cause short-term and long-term health effects that cost Americans $15 billion to $100 billion in annual health care expenses, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
Of course, one way to breathe in fewer pollutants, chemicals and toxins is to bring fewer synthetic chemicals into your home in the first place. There are some great tips on how to do this in this article Detox Your Home: Best 5 First Steps by Annie Bond.
Use Ventilation and Filtration to Clear the Air
You can improve your home's air quality with these simple changes:
- Use the exhaust fan, especially when cooking with gas stoves.
- Ventilate an attached garage. Set up an exhaust fan wired to the garage door on a timer, so it turns on when the door opens.
- Eliminate particle board if you are building or remodeling. Particle board off-gases formaldehyde for years. Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA.
- Use VOC-free paint. Volatile organic compounds do little to improve the performance of paint and may cause cancer in humans, according to the EPA.
- Air out dry cleaning. Hang your dry cleaning in the garage overnight to release harmful fumes before putting the clothes in your closet.
- Use or add a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters improve indoor air quality and can be retrofitted for existing furnaces with some fan speed modifications, or they can be designed into a new system. Smaller unit filters can also be placed on different levels of your home to eliminate dust, pollens and dander as well as many other airborne irritants.
Choose the Right Type of Air Purifier for the Job
Look for an air filter that combines all five of the following filtration technologies for the best all-around air filter you can put in your home.
Activated Carbon: Best for Removing Chemicals
Removes many common gaseous indoor air pollutants and VOCs, ozone, odors and tobacco particulates.
HEPA: Best for Breathing Easier
Traps at least 97 percent of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size, such as asbestos, pollen, dander and smoke particulates.
Ion Generator: Best for Intangibles
Removes tobacco particulates, airborne irritants and bacteria, all with no filters to replace. Plus, studies show negative ions in the air create a feeling of well-being and produce greater mental and physical energy.
UV Light: Best for Killing Germs
Uses ultraviolet light to kill airborne germs, bacteria and viruses, but does not filter the air.
Zeolite: Best Waste-Reducer
Great for removing odors and many gaseous pollutants, including VOCs. Plus, there are no filters to replace — simply recharge in direct sunlight to release absorbed pollutants.
Browse air filtration and purification products at Gaiam.com