Indoor air quality is important for many reasons. We spend a good amount of time, including the time that we are asleep, in our homes. Poor air quality can aggravate asthma and other lung conditions, particularly in the very young and the elderly. In a worse case scenario, poor air quality that is the result of a home with little ventilation heated with a combustible heat source can lead to death by carbon monoxide poisoning.
In addition to the health concerns that can occur because of poor air quality, it can also affect the structure of the home. A home with poor ventilation that also has a moisture problem is likely to develop mildew, which, in addition to causing respiratory problems, weakens the structure of the home. Damage due to mildew can be just as extensive as water damage.
Poor air quality is a serious concern. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it is the fourth largest environmental health threat to our country. Americans are spending more time inside, and, encased in our energy efficient homes, we are not getting the fresh air that we did even a decade ago.
Eliminate Sources of Pollution
Common sources of pollution in the home are heaters that use a combustible fuel source, such as gas or kerosene, and asbestos containing building materials. You can improve the quality of the air in your home by reducing the influence of these preexisting hazards. You can enclose or cover asbestos containing materials, and adjust your heaters to reduce emissions. If your home is an older home, you may have areas of damaged asbestos that should be replaced, or a natural gas furnace that is inefficient. The benefit of an older home is that they have better ventilation than new homes, but the materials they contain are sometimes harmful.
Consider the products that you use in your home. Aerosols, such as hair spray, are not good for the quality of the air in your home, and there are few products that cannot be purchased in a pump action bottle. Choose your cleaning solutions carefully, and use them wisely. Many commonly used household cleaners are very caustic and can result in irritating fumes. Always use the least amount of a cleaning solution possible. You can use less of a product if you work on the soiled area while it is still fresh and let the cleaning solution set for a few minutes before you start cleaning. Also, it never hurts to try water first.
Ventilation is important in a home. Modern homes with central heating and cooling systems are notoriously efficient. While this is good for your utility bills, it is not the healthiest condition to live in. If you have a newer, more energy efficient home, there will be even less ventilation. The lack of fresh air in the home is a contributing factor in poor air quality.
Mold and mildew also contribute to poor air quality, and they too can be controlled by increased ventilation. The increased ventilation helps to keep the area dry and reduce the ability for mold and mildew to grow.
To improve the ventilation in the home, let some air in. Clearly you are limited by the time of year and the weather conditions, but any increase in ventilation improves the air quality. Open windows when possible, run attic fans and bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Increased ventilation is particularly important when you are participating in activities that decrease the air quality, such as sanding, heating with a natural fuel source, such as a kerosene heater, and painting.
Keep it Clean
The most important thing that you can do to increase the air quality in your home is to keep it clean. IF you have a pet, decrease the dander carried around by washing and grooming it often. If you have old carpets, consider pulling them up and replacing them with hard flooring that can easily be wiped clean. If you have plants in your home, check the soil. Over watering can lead to mold growing on the soil. You should wash or replace your shower curtains often to prevent them from growing mildew.
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