It is a chilly time of year and people are beginning to spend more and more time indoors. This is a very good plan, unless your air quality indoors is poor. Researchers believe that the rise in asthma and respiratory illness is linked to indoor air quality. The US Environmental Protection Agency measures indoor pollutant levels two to five times higher then outdoor ones because modern insulation is so effective. While this is great for energy efficiency it is not great for overall health.
The first way to lower pollutants indoors is to stop them from getting in. Your shoes carry a fine layer of dust and mold on their soles, and leaving them at the door prevents this from spreading to the carpets. Every time someone walks across the floor is stirs up a cloud of dust for you to breathe in. Freshly dry cleaned clothes emit chemicals, and researchers suggest waiting a few days to pick them up from the shop, so all chemicals have time to dry. This situation can also be solved by choosing an ecologically friendly dry cleaning company that does not use toxic chemicals. Lastly, watch the fragrances you are using around your home. Some cause headaches and irritations, so use naturally based lotions, sprays, and soaps.
The second thing to think about regarding air quality is ventilation. Cooking causes many different odors, so remember to turn on your stove ventilation whenever possible. Remember never to start your car in a closed garage. The carbon monoxide omitted is very harmful. Also, if your home is fitted with a fireplace, make sure the flues are working properly, and the device is adequately vented.
Cleaning products are one of the biggest sources of potentially harmful chemicals. Switching to natural products is great, but be careful to do your research. Just because a product claims to be green or non-toxic does not mean it is the best one out their. Manufacturers have an immense amount of flexibility in their labeling, so you should do your own research before believing their claims.
Use some of these tips to improve the air quality in your homes. But also make sure to get outside–even in the cold. Invest in a warm jacket and have fun in your community during this gorgeous time of year.
For more information on improving indoor air quality see Melinda Wenner Moyer’s article in Redbook.