Controlling Indoor Air Pollution
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution can be as high as, or even higher than, outdoor levels. Because we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, ambient air quality can impact anyone’s health, but seniors, children and people with health conditions like asthma and heart disease are more vulnerable.
Some pollutants come from outside; others originate indoors through cooking, cleaning, smoking, building materials, consumer products and furnishings. Common contaminants include formaldehyde, mold and pollen. Consider these measures to maintain a healthy, fresh-air environment inside the dwelling.
Ventilate the Home
Open non-street-facing windows for 15 minutes every day to let fresh air in. Even if it’s colder or hotter outdoors, indoor air quality will improve, and the temperature will adjust quickly. The best times to ventilate are before 10 a.m. and after 9 p.m., when outdoor pollution is lowest.
Air quality alerts for particulates from forest fires or heavy smog may indicate skipping ventilation. To expel pollutants, use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, or position a fan to blow out of a window. Ventilate rooms when painting or engaging in maintenance and hobbies that use noxious chemicals.
Filter the Air
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters fitted into heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems remove pollutants throughout the house, including dust, pollen, mold and bacteria. Portable air cleaners known as HEPA air purifiers can sanitize a single room or area. For more information, visit Tinyurl.com/EPAindoorair.
To reduce airborne, allergy-causing agents, including dust mites, pollen, animal dander and dust (comprised of dead skin, soil, fungal spores and chemicals), houseclean regularly. Use a vacuum with HEPA filtration and strong suction. Wet-wipe and wet-mop surfaces with reusable, compostable materials like washable cotton, hemp or wool. Avoid petroleum-based microfiber, which releases microplastics. Mops with bamboo or metal handles are more eco-friendly and longer lasting than plastic types.
Avoid Introducing Pollutants
Remove shoes at the door to prevent tracking in pesticides from green spaces and infectious bacteria from public restrooms, healthcare buildings or foodservice facilities.
Replace chemical-ridden air fresheners, body perfumes and bug sprays with low-toxicity, DIY or commercial products that use essential oils and plant-based ingredients. Choose cleaning products certified or recommended by Green Seal (GreenSeal.org), EcoLogo (EcoLogo.org) or the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning (Tinyurl.com/EWGclean).
Make sure new furnishings and remodeling materials don’t contain lead, asbestos, flame retardants, volatile organic compounds or perfluorinated chemicals. Choose Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood furniture and Global Organic Textile Standard-certified textiles. For more tips, visit Tinyurl.com/EWGhomeguide.