Mike Gunter, owner, AirPure, LLC
Utah’s winter inversion season is quickly approaching. Are you ready? The Utah Division of Air Quality has recommended taking precautions to avoid heavy exertion outside and driving less frequently to lessen emissions that add to pollution. Great tips, but you might want to take a deep breath (or not): The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that the air in most homes is two to five times more contaminated than the air outdoors.
In our ever-increasing efforts to make homes more energy efficient we are creating spaces sealed so tightly that biological irritants (i.e., mold spores, dust mites and pollen) and fumes (like volatile organic compounds or VOCs found in many household products) are building up.
Indoor air pollutants can affect your entire family’s health by contributing to the development of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and heart disease can result from long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants.
To improve the indoor air quality in your home, consider installing an air cleaning system to remove air pollutants from your home. You can also implement the strategies in the box below to help clear the air in your home.
If you think your home is making you sick, you might be right. Take steps quickly to solve the problem and help your family breathe easier.
Clear the Air in Your Home and Help Your Family Stay Healthy
- Open your windows. When the air is clear outside, open your windows for 10-15 minutes a day to dilute the contaminated air in your home.
- Be a cautious cleaner. Dust is a leading source of air pollution because it absorbs toxic gases. Frequent, methodical vacuuming captures most dust.
- Run bathroom fans. Bathroom vents draw moist air out, reducing the risk of mold development. Run fans whenever you are showering or using products that contain fragrances or vapors.
- Clean or replace furnace and AC filters. If filters are dirty or damaged they don’t work. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for heating and air conditioning systems. Generally, filters should be checked about four times a year (depending on the filter used). If filters have been neglected or compromised, you may need to clean your furnace and air ducts. The EPA also recommends having air ducts cleaned every five to seven years if anyone in your household has asthma or other respiratory illnesses.
- Forget the fireplace. According to the American Lung Association, burning wood emits harmful toxins that can worsen breathing problems, lead to heart and lung disease and even early death. If you must burn wood for heat, make sure you it is in a stove that meets EPA standards. What about gas fireplaces? Many leak nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide into your home, so make sure they are fully vented to the outdoors.
- Toss half-used paint. Even when they’re resealed, the paint can release significant levels of harmful VOCs. Unopened cans are more airtight, but still emit fumes, so store them in a well-ventilated area, such as outdoors in a shed, until ready to use.
- Limit use of fragrances. Pleasant scents often make indoor air worse. Choose soaps and cleaners free of perfumes and dyes. To scent your home, boil citrus peels or herbs like sage, rosemary or mint.
- Test for Radon. Even though it’s 100 percent natural, radon (an odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas found in one in 15 homes) is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
- Make your own cleaners. Vinegar, borax and baking soda can be used to clean your home without VOCs.
- Buy a ficus plant. Researchers especially like them for their gas-absorbing and antimicrobial activity.
- Test your home’s humidity levels. Humidity levels should be between 30 and 60 percent. Higher levels put you at risk for increased mold and dust mites and lower levels can aggravate existing breathing problems and dry out skin.
- Cover your walls with Low-VOC paint. Walls are a leading source of harmful compounds because paint continues to “offgas” up to a year after it dries.
- Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Short for high efficiency particle accumulator, HEPA filters catch virtually all particles that are 0.3 micrometers in size.
- Invest in an air cleaning system. A good system can stop up to 95 percent of the dust and other particles to help make your home a dust-free zone.