“Walking into a modern building can sometimes be compared to placing your head inside a plastic bag that is filled with toxic fumes,” according to Healthy House Institute founder John Bower. Chemical pollutants, mold, dust mite excretions, pet dander, and radon are just a few of the health hazards that might be trapped inside the walls of your home. Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to cut the toxicity of your indoor air and protect your family.
Air Things Out
Image via Flickr by Lydia Brooks
Opening the windows dilutes emissions from indoor sources and freshens the air in your home. Replacing screens and applying lubricant to sticky window frames will make opening up the house much more inviting. Sometimes in an older home, wood frames need sanding or planing to make them glide easily. If the chore seems overwhelming, start by opening two windows at opposite ends of the house to create a nice air flow, and add ceiling fans or a window box fan to keep the air moving.
Test for Toxins
Make sure your home is free of the three most common and serious threats: radon, lead, and carbon monoxide. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that can cause lung cancer. Testing is the only way to discover whether radon is present in your home. You can buy radon test kits in most home improvement stores, or order one online from Kansas State University’s National Radon Program. Lead testing kits are also widely available to check the water and paint in your home; be sure to test painted woodwork, as lead often escapes into the air when moving parts grind together and create dust. Carbon monoxide levels should be monitored constantly with a carbon monoxide detector.
Service Your Systems
Your home heating and cooling system is an important source of airflow and, sometimes, ventilation for your house. Changing your air filter regularly can help reduce dust and pollen in your home. It’s also a good idea to have your HVAC systems professionally cleaned and maintained in the spring and fall. According to Air Conditioning by Luquire, scheduled maintenance will reduce allergens, pet dander, and other airborne particles in your home by keeping the inner components and moving parts of your system clean.
Clean with Care
Keeping your home clean is an important step to reduce pollens, pet dander, and dust mites. But the wrong cleaning products will actually worsen your air quality problems by introducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your environment. Look for products that say “low VOC” or “no VOC” on the label. Products that come in liquid or paste form disperse fewer particles into the air than sprays.
Some indoor air issues are obvious, like a moldy basement or a family member who smokes in the house. But most are invisible and may be threatening your health without your knowledge. Bringing in fresh air, testing for common toxins, maintaining your HVAC systems and choosing cleaning products wisely are important steps to protect your family from invisible health hazards.