Research has shown that indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks. Poor indoor air quality in the home can cause a multitude of health issues.
It can also severely irritate already existing conditions such as asthma, allergies, chemical sensitivities and emphysema.
That’s why it’s important to take proven steps to eliminate pollutants in the home…or at least to greatly reduce them.
Here are 3 effective steps to reduce poor indoor air quality in any home, apartment or living space.
How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution in Your Home
1. Control the source – Obviously, the most important step in reducing pollutants is removing specific sources of air contamination or reducing their emission. It is the most effective, but may be the most complicated (especially in an existing structure).
Sources of toxic emissions can range from building materials to combustion appliances. Some may be easy to remove from your home. Others may not be so easy to get rid of without literally tearing out materials and replacing with healthy, toxic free alternatives.
For example, replacing pressed wood products with solid wood or healthier green building materials may be necessary to remove the harmful emissions of formaldehyde. Isolating the exact source of each pollutant is often necessary to determine to what extent removal is required.
Other issues can be adjusted more easily such as replacing combustible appliances like gas ranges and stoves with Energy Star electric appliances. Doctors who specialize in treating asthma patients often recommend to avoid gas appliances altogether because of the harmful emissions. (Even though natural gas appliances are marketed as “clean natural gas” alternatives to electric appliances, there are still health issues associated for some people, especially children and the elderly.)
And of course, any smokers in the house should be required to go outside for their smokes. However, tobacco smoke can easily invade furniture, drapes, carpeting, walls, and construction materials. Sometimes the only answer is to remove the materials that have absorbed heavy cigarette smoke.
2. Proper ventilation – It’s important to ensure that there is a healthy exchange of air from outside to inside your home. Unfortunately, many modern homes and apartments are designed to be air tight and energy efficient, which can cause very poor air circulation.
• General ventilation – Natural ventilation can be facilitated through open doors and windows. However, in some environments that is not helpful because of the poor outdoor quality of air. Relying on air conditioning systems and forced air heating units does nothing to circulate air either. They are not built for air exchange.
• Local ventilation – The placement of exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and sometimes beside windows and doors can help. This can reduce moisture in the home and expel pollutants as well as odors from the interior.
There are even specialized air exchange units that draw fresh air from outside, filter it and circulate it in the home. These are lesser known appliances, but sometimes used by those with serious health complications from illnesses such as allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivities.
3. Air Purifiers – After controlling the source of indoor pollution as much as possible and after attempting to ventilate properly, the final step is to introduce one or more air purifiers into the home environment.
Just as there are many types of pollutants, there are many types of air cleaners suited for specific needs. There are whole house air purifiers that can be installed with the HVAC system. There are electrostatic filters that can also be placed on return vents that help remove particles. Then, for more specific filtration, room air purifiers can make a huge difference in cleaning up areas of the home.
Air cleaners are best used after all attempts at source control and ventilation have been completed. (Of course, if there is an immediate need to lower the pollution factor for health purposes, an air purifier can dramatically reduce indoor air pollution until further source control and ventilation is completed.)
Sometimes adding the right air purification system can make the ultimate difference in whether or not a home is livable. While these products do not solve a dirty air problem, they can continually lower the irritation levels of pollution for many people who deal with constant exposures.
The ultimate answer for enjoying good indoor air quality in your home is to build your own healthy home with toxic free materials, follow proper ventilation protocols and then, perhaps add air purifiers as needed. This is not always an option for everyone, but following the above three important steps to reducing dirty air can be extremely beneficial in any living environment.