Poor indoor air quality affects everyone. People with asthma or allergies can see their conditions worsen, and healthy people can suffer from symptoms that include headaches, nausea and dizziness even during short term exposure.
Over time, chronic exposure to contaminants in the air indoors can increase risk of central nervous system damage, cancer and liver and kidney problems. But we don’t have to live with these higher risks.
There are many actions we take right now that can improve air quality indoors and keep our families safer and healthier:
1. Open the windows whenever possible.
When our houses are sealed up, it’s impossible for contaminants to leave. As a result, they get recirculated, leading to higher levels of dust, mold, animal dander and other irritants. Any day that it’s warm or cool enough to go without the AC, open up the windows to let fresh air in for at least a few minutes. Opening up allows fresh air in and indoor air pollutants out.
2. Ditch the chemical air fresheners
The word “air freshener” is something of a misnomer. While these may introduce pleasant scents, they also bring in VOCs that can contribute to indoor pollution. Exposure to VOCs can cause short term issues such as headaches, respiratory problems and irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Longer exposure can significantly raise your chances of developing health issues that include liver or kidney damage, cancer and damage to your central nervous system, so ensure that air fresheners you use at home are safe. Freshen the air naturally and avoid chemical air fragrances that include VOCs, which can contribute to indoor pollution.
3. Bring plants inside
Some of the most effective indoor filters are also easy on the eyes. House plants like snake plant, dracaena and philodendrons are easy to keep indoors. These plants and others can remove gases from the air that include benzene, VOCs, formaldehyde and others. In one study, common houseplants that included spider plant, snake plant and pothos were placed in a chamber that was injected with high levels of ozone. Within 75 minutes, the quantity of ozone had been reduced to 3% of the original amount.
4. Declutter the house
Stacks of clutter aren’t just unsightly. They can also harbor mold, dander and other particulates that can cause respiratory irritations. Remove all knick-knacks but a handful from shelves and change out your display regularly. Switch to digital versions of bills, magazines and your local daily paper. When there are fewer places for dust to collect, it’s easier to remove it and keep it out of the air.
5. Put anti-dust mite covers on the mattress and pillows
Dust mites live in and on our mattresses and pillows. One in twenty Americans is allergic to them. While we can’t eliminate them from our homes, we can reduce our exposure. Consider purchasing special mattress and pillow covers that block them out and keep them from polluting the air where you sleep.
But, by taking small steps regularly, you can cut the number of pollutants and make the air you breathe cleaner and healthier.