Indoor Air Quality: What Is Your Family Actually Breathing?
Virginia Cunningham, Contributor
We think of our houses as our havens, a safe zone away from the dangers that lurk outside our doors. But did you know that the air inside your home might be more hazardous to your health than the air outside–regardless of what the smog rating is for the day? Old appliances, toxic cleaning products, dust-collecting knick-knacks, pets, and poor ventilation all contribute to a number of respiratory issues. Allergies, asthma, bronchitis. and more are some of the more intense side effects that come with poor air quality. So, what’s causing the home pollution and what can you do about it?
What’s polluting the air inside?
Even the most commonplace items can collect or release allergens, triggering the onset of allergy attacks. Home appliances like space heaters, gas ranges, ovens, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters, if not properly serviced, can release gas and other irritants into your home. Additionally, these large appliances tend to collect dust and are oft overlooked when cleaning the house.
Mold and mildew can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory infections, if untreated. While mold and mildew grows unabated in poorly ventilated areas with high humidity levels, the spores can easily travel to the rest of the house through your ventilation system.
Pets can also trigger allergies and other breathing issues. Many people are allergic to various animals’ hair and dander—and in an enclosed space, the reaction is more severe. If you have an indoor/outdoor pet, the animal is likely to bring in pollen, dust, and other allergens and irritants from the outside, which, again in an enclosed area, magnifies the potency of the pollutants.
While cleaning the house can rid you of dust mites, dust, molds, and other irritants is a good way to keep allergens from wreaking havoc with your air quality, you need to pay attention to what cleansers you use. Most household cleaning products, especially those formulated with chlorine and ammonia, can add to indoor pollution. Many of these cleaners release volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the air during use, which is harmful to your health. Paint, stove cleaners, and (ironically) air fresheners also may contain VOCs.
It is becoming more and more common to have small wall fountains inside your home, and while these promote a sense of relaxation and additional beauty, it is also easy for these to get dirty very fast. The impurities and algae that the water develops will only take away from the air quality in your home, so it is important to keep the fountains clean. At the minimum, a small fountain should be cleaned once a month, but cleaning it two or three times is even better. Clean air is your priority!
Improve your home’s air quality
Below are a few simple steps that will help you improve your home’s air quality, which will help improve your health as well.
· Use natural cleansers. Ditch the toxic chemical cleansers and use commercial or DIY natural alternatives to clean your home. DIY cleaners are simple to make at home and can also save money.
· Open your windows as often as possible. Poor ventilation and air circulation concentrates allergens and pathogens in your home. You are exposed to a higher density of pollutants while indoors than outdoors and for longer stretches of time, as you cook, watch TV, eat, and sleep at home.
· Use essential oils to kill harmful airborne pathogens. Essential oils have been shown to have antibacterial, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties, interfering with virus’s and bacteria’s ability to reproduce. Diffuse a few drops of lemon, tea tree, or peppermint oils into the air to inhibit the spread of airborne pathogens.
· Indoor plants help filter the air. Considerednature’s air purifiers, plants filter harmful toxins out of the air while producing oxygen.
· Groom your pets frequently—outside. The more you groom your pets, the less they will shed inside. But make sure you’re doing the grooming outside so that you’re not releasing dander and hair into the air.
Making these few changes can make a great difference in the indoor air quality. Improve your family’s health and your home’s air quality by trying these tips today.
About the Author
Virginia Cunningham is a freelance writer and mother of three in Southern California. Keeping her family as healthy as possible is one of her biggest priorities, and this means keeping her home clean and pollutant free.
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