When you think of air pollution, you tend to think of the air outside the house. But did you know that air quality inside can be more polluted than the air outside? It’s true. Surprisingly, improvements in home construction can actually even make the problem worse because homes are more airtight. While this saves on your heating and cooling bill, it also prevents dangerous irritants from escaping. But fear not, you can take simple, inexpensive steps to make the air quality inside your house fresher and healthier.
Cigarette smoke is the No. 1 indoor air pollutant. The wreckage that cigarettes create for adults is well known. But the 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke creates perils for others, increases a child’s risk for developing infections, asthma, and even cancer. If you smoke, do everything you can to quit. If you can’t quit, be rigorous about smoking outside and away from doors and windows. Be equally rigorous about guests and visitors. Don’t let your desire to be a good host override your judgment about this dangerous pollutant.
Frequent vacuuming with a good vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters goes a long way in reducing allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Mopping with plain water can pick up particles the vacuum leaves behind. Skipping soaps and cleaners can get the job done without adding the pollutants that are part of most household products. Lots of pollutants get dragged in daily on people’s shoes. Simple solutions can have a large impact. Place doormats in front of every door and have people remove their outdoor footwear as soon as they come in.
Houseplants are living air fresheners. Some of the best at the job are also the easiest to grow such as spider plants, Boston fern, snake plant, peace lily, ivy, and palm. But all plants help and you can brighten your natural air purifying system by including native plants. They'll add color, are easy to maintain, and will coordinate your indoor garden with the world outside. Speaking of the outdoors, opening your windows for a few minutes a day can also help refresh the air.
Your stove and HVAC systems all can generate pollutants or stir up dust and danders. You want to keep your systems efficient, free of leaks and clean by having professionals inspect them yearly. It's also crucial you change the filters frequently, so the unit doesn't have to work as hard. In summer, reducing the heat from lighting will also cut down on energy usage. You can up your commitment to this easily by signing on to a service that pays you for reducing energy consumption at designated hours. That will yield a triple benefit by reducing pollution indoors and out, while also giving a boost to the household budget.
Reducing indoor air pollution doesn’t have to be tough. It just involves simple, common-sense steps that are in general harmony with a modern, eco-conscious lifestyle.
Frances Black is an environmental journalist whose home is filled with native plants and flowers. When she’s not tending to her indoor plants, you’ll find her in her vegetable garden, which she doesn’t mind sharing with the local wildlife.
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