The National Institute of Environmental Health Services and the Environmental Protection Agency have published a whole host of studies indicating significant health hazards caused by air pollution. The studies focus on outdoor air pollution and the risks associated with it. Such as an increase in asthma rates among children, cardiovascular issues with the elderly and even proof of urban air pollutants crossing the placenta and harming cognitive abilities in unborn children.
The sense of fear these findings induce when the media gets a hold of them is substantial, usually causing people to opt for spending more time inside the home where the perceived air quality is cleaner and controllable. Unfortunately it is not quite as simple as closing the doors and windows to keep out the 'bad air'.
First let's look at items in the home that have potentially harmful emissions. Many furniture manufacturers use lumber treated with formaldehyde, which then release off-gases. Carpeting is commonly sprayed with formaldehyde as well, as it keeps rodents from making their nest in the carpeting while the roll sits in a warehouse. Many older homes contain asbestos and lead paint, critically dangerous substances proven to cause cancer and persistent brain damage.
The use of air fresheners and incense is a common habit for many people; however it is just not safe for our health. The chemicals in air fresheners contain ozone depleting substances, formaldehyde, ethylene based glycol and terpenes. Even natural incense can trigger asthma, dyspepsia and other respiratory difficulties.
So what can the average homeowner do to clear the air in the home without bringing in the polluted air from outside? To begin with, dispose of all the so-called air freshening products in the home including scented candles, sprays, plug in devices, oils, incense and anything else there may be.
Now investigate the home for asbestos and lead paint, but if you find evidence of either material DO NOT remove it yourself. Have professionals remove the harmful substances in a government approved manner. It may cost a little bit of money, but it is well worth the expense considering the harmful affects the lead and asbestos could be having on your family.
Now take a good look in the attic, crawlspaces, basements, window sills, ventilation cavities and anywhere else there may be moisture. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 75% of people who live in spaces with even a small amount of mold will develop asthma or Cardiopulmonary Disease. If there is mold found in the home, make sure all evidence of it is removed properly, then invest in the installation of closed cell spray foam insulation. The use of this kind of insulation is beneficial in so many ways, and not just for the health of those in the home.
First of all, the spray foam will seal up all the cracks and crevices where expensive cold air can see into the home, causing not only respiratory issues but increased heating costs. Second, spray foam insulation is mold and moisture resistant. Third, critters and insects do not dig out and make their homes in spray foam insulation because it is just too difficult. The mites, dust from feces, animal fur and dead skin cells from invading creatures will be prevented from entering the home's air system.
Few people would be willing to completely start from scratch and dispose of all old furniture and carpeting that has any chance of emitting harmful off gasses, and we are not suggesting that it is a viable option. However there are measures that can be taken. For example, keep the carpets clean and vacuum regularly. The more they are vacuumed, the more emissions will be removed. Use a machine with a HEPA filter so the particles are not just spit out into the environment again. Install high grade filters in your furnace, overhead stove fans and air conditioners, so the air pumped in and out of the home will be cleaner.
No one likes a home that smells like last night's dinner, and we have already discussed the harm that air fresheners can do to one's health, so how do you keep your home smelling fresh? The answer is in ventilation fans. As soon as you begin preparation for a meal, turn the hood fan on. The constant flushing out of the fumes from food will mean a much less odorous home at the end of the day.
The same is true when bathing. The best scenario is having a good bathroom fan with a timer. Turn the timer on for ten minutes each time the bathroom is used, and an hour for each time someone has a bath or shower. The fan will make sure the odors are vented out of the home, as well as the humidity – an important function in preventing mold and mildew.
There is no need to hide away in your home to avoid air pollution. In fact, it is important for all living animals to absorb vitamin D from the sun. Get outside and enjoy the sun and nature, then return to the clean air of your home. You can not control the air outside, but you can reduce the harmful emissions that are in your home. If you plan to build a house, use Radon resistant materials and other environmentally responsible products. There are ways to make your indoor air quality better, it just takes planning.