Over the course of this long year, we have all become acutely aware of what can travel in the air we breathe, especially when we’re indoors. But airborne viruses aren’t the only potential problems with the air that circulates in our homes. Plenty of other pollutants, particulates, and allergens can cause a wide range of health problems if you don’t take basic steps to monitor and improve your house’s indoor air quality (IAQ).
What is Indoor Air Pollution?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. That percentage is actually higher for people who are more prone to health problems caused by indoor air pollution, such as young children and older adults. In these enclosed spaces, the concentration of some pollutants are often two to five times greater than in outdoor air.
Some of the most prevalent sources of indoor air pollution include:
- Carbon monoxide emissions from central heating systems and gas stoves
- Tobacco smoke
- Indoor combustion sources such as wood and coal heating and cooking appliances and fireplaces
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained in everyday household items like disinfectants, air fresheners, paint, carpeting, adhesives, pesticides, and wood preservatives.
The enclosed nature of homes and other buildings, particularly when the weather or the design of a building doesn’t facilitate the circulation of outdoor air, can trap all of these pollutants and continually circulate them through the building’s ventilation system.
Health effects associated with indoor air pollution include:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
- Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.
- Respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer.
What You Can Do Today To Immediately Improve Your Home’s IAQ
Fortunately, a little bit of time and a trip to the home improvement store are often all it takes to minimize any dangers from the air in your home. Here are seven things you can do starting today to improve your home’s indoor air quality:
- Eliminate the sources of pollution. Consider changing some of the products you use or how you decorate your home to reduce avoidable pollutants. Use non-toxic pesticides, wash linens in hot water, clean rugs and carpets with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner at least once a week, use non-toxic, fragrance-free household cleaners, and try essential oil diffusers instead of air fresheners. Also, take off your shoes when you’re in the house to keep from tracking pollen or other allergens inside.
- Minimize the risk of carbon monoxide exposure. Heating equipment such as unvented kerosene heaters, wood stoves, gas water heaters, and central heating systems are among the most common sources of carbon monoxide emissions indoors. Leaking chimneys and furnaces can further pump carbon monoxide inside your home. Ensure that you properly maintain all combustion equipment to minimize toxic fumes and have an HVAC professional inspect, clean, and tune-up your central heating system every year.
- Eliminate mold. To keep mold from developing, try to minimize humidity levels in your home, particularly in areas that can have a lot of moisture, like the kitchen and washrooms. Use exhaust fans whenever you shower or bathe.
- Increase ventilation. Even during cold stretches, occasionally open windows and turn on window or attic fans to allow fresh air to move through your home.
- Groom your pets. Pet dander is a major pollutant for dog and cat owners. Brush your pet regularly and vacuum all the carpeting, floors, and furnishings using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Get an air purifier. These devices, placed in commonly used rooms, can clean the air of many pollutants. Also consider investing in some of nature’s air purifiers: plants.
- Change your air filters. If you have a forced-air heating system, change the filters regularly and invest in high-performance filters that can be very effective at capturing and trapping small particles and allergens like pet dander, smoke, dust, and viruses.
If you’re looking for a Chicago home, Z Chicago can help you find the perfect place. Contact us at 312-810-2295 to speak with one of our talented and dedicated agents today.