There’s nothing worse than taking a long walk in the city park and seeing a cloud of smog hanging over the place you’ve made your home. Or enjoying a quiet country afternoon and coughing on the black fumes spewing out of a passing car. Thankfully you can retreat into your home to avoid all those harmful air pollutants, right?
Studies by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have shown that indoor pollutants and contaminants are often between 2-5 times higher than outdoor pollutants, and sometimes can exceed 100 times higher. Since most Americans spend a whopping 90% of their time inside, this level of indoor pollution can have a direct effect on our health.
During the cold months of winter, we spend the majority of our time inside with the windows sealed and the doors closed. While this saves us money on our energy bills (keeping the warm air in and the cold air out), the reduced airflow allows pollutants to build up and accumulate. But, when summer comes along, we throw all the windows open and let the fresh air in, right?
While a small segment of Americans still rely on traditional methods to keep cool during the hot summer months (oscillating fans, open windows, lounging in the pool …), an overwhelming 86% of American homes rely on air conditioning to keep their homes comfortable in the hottest months of the year. This means that our homes are sealed up again, keeping the cool air in and the hot, humid air out, allowing pollutants to continue to accumulate.
But where do these harmful contaminants comes from?
Pretty much everything we do in our homes and offices results in some type of pollutant. Cooking dinner? You’re likely releasing carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide into the air. The same is true if you’re running a space heater or enjoying a cup of cocoa by a roaring fire. Cleaning your home with traditional cleansers or putting away your fresh dry cleaning? Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are likely present. Speaking of VOCs, they happen to be in an overwhelming majority of the furnishings in our homes and the materials used to build our homes. And that air freshener you simply love? It likely has VOCs as well. Molds, secondhand smoke, and radon gas all contribute to the diminished air quality of our homes. So, if all these contaminants are all over our homes, there’s nothing that can be done, right?
There are many ways that you can reduce the level of contamination in your home. Increasing ventilation and air circulation in your home is the most effective way to keep your air clear. Open windows whenever possible, and run vent fans when cooking and cleaning.
Because pollutants and contaminants thrive in humid environments, run a dehumidifier to keep your home’s humidity levels between 30-50%.
Change the filters in your HVAC unit regularly, replacing them with high quality filters that are rated between 13-16. This will ensure that your system is removing the teeniest, tiniest particles that could be accumulating in your air.
When bringing new products into your home, make every effort to purchase low-VOC products. Decorate your home with non-toxic paints, and use natural fibers as often as possible.
When it comes to cleaning, use natural and organic cleaning products to keep high levels of VOCs out of the air. The closer your cleaning supplies are to organic, the safer your home and your family will be!
Check out this handy infographic for more information of keeping your home’s air clean!