Monday, November 14, 2011

Improving Indoor Air Quality

Winter is just around the corner.  In most areas of the country the temperatures will drop and people will keep their windows and doors shut tight.  This is great for conserving energy but not for your health.  If you keep your windows and doors shut for weeks and months, toxins start to build up indoors to a point where the air indoors becomes more toxic than the air outdoors.   If you use toxic chemicals to clean such as chlorine bleach, chemical window cleaner, and aerosal furniture polish then the toxic levels will rise even quicker.   If you also use air fresheners, spray chemical pesticide indoors, or installed synthetic carpet within the past year, then you are garanteed unsafe toxic levels in your house this winter.  If you have frequent headaches or allergy symptoms during the winter, household toxins may be the reason why.  Here are some suggestions to keep your indoor air fresher through the winter.

  • Substitute chemical cleaning products for natural products.  Go to Eco-cycle  for recipes.  Most cleaning products can be made from vinegar, water, baking soda, washing soda, dish soap, and/or borax.
  • Ventilate your house by opening a window or two in every room once a week for 15 minutes to an hour even in the winter.  This is especially important in the bedroom since we spend at least 8 hours per day.  
  • Avoid air fresheners.  They cost money and emit toxins.  The air in your house should smell fresh and not like roses unless you have roses in the house.  The best air freshener for a house is cooking.  Bake something or make some soup.  Your house will smell great.  Just remember to turn on the venting fans. 
  • Turn on the venting fans when you cook or take a shower.  It is especially important to turn on the venting fans if you cook with gas.
  • Don't use pesticide sprays anywhere inside your house.  Getting rid of insects yourself or using natural methods is much better than poisoning your children and pets.  For natural ways to get rid of pests, check out
  • Get a good "Welcome" mat for all entrances to your house.  Better yet, don't wear your shoes in the house.  Even if you don't use fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides, you will track them in from other places along with petroleum residue from vehicles.
  • If you dry clean your clothes, then switch to one that uses green or eco-friendly products to dry clean.  Better yet, don't buy clothes that need dry cleaning.  Dry-cleaned clothes release highly toxic chemicals.  If you can't find an eco-friendly dry cleaners and you must dry clean, then take the plastic off the clothes and air outside or near an open window for at least an hour before hanging in your bedroom closet.
  • When replacing carpets, substitute real hardwood floors with natural area carpets.  If that is not possible, then make sure you open your windows to air out and vacuum every day for at least a couple of months after installing.  As long as you can smell that new carpet, it is highly toxic, especially to kids and pets who usually spend their day much closer to the floor.
  • Use paints with no volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) or at least low odor VOC paints the next time you paint.  Paint only when windows can be opened while painting.  If painting a bedroom, especially a child's bedroom, have them sleep in another room for a couple of evenings.  This is crucial if you are using paints with any amount of VOCs.
  • Consider buying an air purifier with a HEPA filter especially if you have problems with allergies. HEPA filters to reduce levels of pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens in the air.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter for the same reasons as above. 

 Happy fresh air breathing this winter!



Image: Simon Howden /

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