Is your home making you sick?
The Environmental Protection Agency identifies several known pollutants common in indoor spaces. The short term effects of some are simple irritation of eyes, lungs or mucous membranes. Long term effects can be more dire.
Watch out for cancer-causing contaminants like formaldehyde. Or volatile organic compounds. Irritants like dust and allergens are all part of indoor air pollution. This is the soup your lungs breathe inside a modern home.
How do you purify the air in your home?
Home goods giant IKEA recently announced their GUNRID fabric curtains. Press releases say the fabric breaks down common pollutants. Do you need them?
Read on to learn more.
What Are You Breathing?
There are more than 3,000 common pollutants in the air of a typical home. Oftentimes indoor air contaminants are more concentrated than the polluted air outside. Some examples:
Irritate the mucous membranes. Dust triggers allergic reactions in sensitive people.
This includes pet and human dander, pollen and dust mites. Molds, bacteria, and viruses also circulate around your home. Legionnaires Disease or toxic Aspergillus mold can thrive with the right conditions.
Vapors of pesticides, weedkillers, and insecticides contain toxic substances. Arsenic and other endocrine system disruptors are good examples.
Chlorine residues from cleaning products and tap water react with organic matter. This forms irritating chloramines.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Cleaning products, paints, and solvents contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Scented detergents, perfumes, and cosmetics release VOCs. Glues, paints, and resins used in building construction can give off VOCs for years.
Office and craft supplies like hot glue, correction fluid, and hobby paints can contain VOCs. Machinery such as copiers, printers, and laminators also exude irritating particles and VOCs.
VOCs are blamed for a raft of symptoms including headaches, skin and throat irritations.
New or Dry Cleaned Fabrics
Can contain trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene. Or they can off-gas formaldehyde, which is a highly toxic carcinogen. Carpets, curtains, draperies, and upholstery are suspect.
Coated or permanent press fabrics can also contain formaldehyde. Mattress materials may off-gas toluene and styrene.
Burning candles, incense, tobacco, and heating appliances create soot and smoke particles. There are hazardous gases like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, too. Carbon monoxide buildup can be deadly in a very short time.
Paraffin wax candles and other flames release toluene and benzene as byproducts. It is better to limit them to outdoor use. It is better to limit them to outdoor use.
This radioactive gas is all over the U.S. Breathing it causes lung cancer.
It usually seeps into basements or attics. It concentrates there due to poor ventilation. It is hazardous if concentrated inside an enclosed space.
Indoor Air Pollution Prevention
The easiest way to control indoor air pollution is to stop it at its source. Avoid contaminating your air in the first place. Replace items that pollute the air with safe products where feasible.
Choose items without a scent, for example, or when you must use fragrances, try a diluted essential oil. Replace herbicides and pesticides with natural alternatives like neem oil or ladybugs. Replace harsh cleaning products with vinegar, baking soda or mild dishwashing soap.
Clean more frequently to eliminate dust and dander. Use a vacuum cleaner that filters the smallest particles. Sensitive individuals benefit from extra filtration. Use your HVAC system or additional air cleaners.
Clean and Maintain HVAC Systems
Air conditioning and heating systems can filter some particulate matter from the air. However, systems must be maintained and operated safely. Carbon monoxide and other harmful gases can be released indoors.
Always make sure that HVAC filters and duct systems are clean. They should be dust and moisture-free, properly vented to the outside and checked regularly. Your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans are an important part of removing harmful matter from the air.
All combusting appliances should undergo regular checks and vent to the outdoors. Protect your indoor air quality by making sure that water heaters, clothes dryers, BBQ grills, etc. are vented outdoors. Make sure they are away from air intakes.
Don’t Invite VOCs In
Wherever possible, avoid VOCs in your home by skipping excess chemicals. Trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and formaldehyde are everywhere. That means eschewing dry cleaning because of hazardous residues.
Avoid substances like aerosol sprays that are vehicles for chemical exposure. Choose less harmful formulations instead. There are many new solvents, paints, and glues low in VOCs, for example.
If you must choose a new mattress, carpet or curtains, unwrap them and allow them to off-gas for several days outdoors. Sunshine will speed the process. When you must have VOCs or other polluting materials indoors, ventilate your space well.
Use open windows and doors, fans and your HVAC system to dilute the concentration of impurities in the air. Mechanical air filters are useful in removing dust and particles from the air but don’t do much for gases.
You Don’t Need A Gimmick
Curtains that absorb air pollution are a nice idea. However, you can make a much larger impact on indoor air pollution. Eliminate the sources of pollution.
Skip burning incense or candles, stop smoking and leave shedding pets outdoors as much as possible.
Use your vacuum cleaner, your HVAC system, and mechanical air filters to remove dust and dander. Your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans also remove VOCs from cooking and cosmetics and vent outdoors. Open your windows and doors to reduce concentrations of harmful substances.
Use non-gassing products wherever possible. Skip cleaning solutions, paints, glues, etc. when you can. Replace toxic products with less damaging ones. Essential oils can substitute for aerosolized chemical fragrances, for example.
You can protect you and your family from indoor air pollution with these simple steps. You don’t need special curtains! Get more information on filters to protect your family from contaminants. Check out our article on changing household filters today!