Indoor Air Quality at Home: Tips to Keep Your Lungs Healthy
posted by Pulmonology | November 18, 2016
The quality of the air in your home plays a big part in your overall health. There are many reasons why indoor air quality is a rising concern. First, many people work and entertain themselves indoors. Second, as we become more energy conscious and our buildings become more energy-efficient, they also become more airtight. Third, many of the modern products that we bring into our homes are made with petrochemicals and other synthetic materials that can slowly give off, or off-gas, low levels of harmful vapors that can build up in the home.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can combat poor air quality in your home.
Research has identified plants that act as air filters and rid their surroundings of harmful chemicals that produced by off-gassing, such as:
Most of these plants come from tropical regions, but are common houseplants in cooler, temperate regions. The list includes aloe vera, snake plant (a.k.a. mother-in-law’s tongue), English ivy, peace lily, red-edged dracaena, and chrysanthemum. Plants like these also help regulate the humidity in your home (you want to keep it between 35% and 65%), another factor of air quality.
Your home’s HVAC system uses air filters to keep dust and debris out of your furnace and air conditioner. These filters are meant to be changed or cleaned regularly, but many homeowners forget about them for far longer than their intended lifespan. As more and more junk clutters up the filter, it becomes less and less effective at doing its job. Tossing and replacing the filter (or cleaning it, if it’s a reusable type) can drastically improve air quality.
When putting in a new filter, see if you can get a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter that fits your HVAC system. Though generally more expensive, these filters are held to strict standards, and trap all but the smallest particles.
There are many ways that new contaminants can get introduced to your home. Take steps to limit how many you let in. Start by greening your cleaning routine. Whenever possible, try to avoid harsh chemical cleaners in the home. You might be surprised at how effective simple vinegar and lemon juice can be in cleaning up kitchen or bathroom surfaces. Additionally, a paste made from baking soda and water works quite well on anything that needs a little bit of scrubbing, but it doesn’t scratch most surfaces. (If you’re worried, test it in an inconspicuous area first.) Use soaps and detergents that don’t have synthetic fragrances added in. Stop some problems at the door by having floor mats at each entrance and taking off your shoes once inside. Finally, insist on a smoke-free home when friends or relatives who smoke visit.
This tip might not be for everyone—at least not right away. But for anyone looking to remodel a room in the near future, consider ditching the carpet for hardwood or tile floors. The synthetic fibers of most new carpets and the adhesives used to bind them to the floors are prime candidates for off-gassing. Over time, the carpets will hold pollutants in your home anyway.
When dust and other contaminants fall to the floor, or are tracked in on shoes from outdoors, they can get trapped in carpet fibers. Once there, they can be nearly impossible to remove. Regular vacuuming helps, and steam cleaning is even better, but nothing is able to get your carpet 100% clean again. Additionally, dust mites can take up residence in carpet fibers, which is a particular problem for those with allergies or asthma. Area rugs, which can be washed more thoroughly, have fewer of these problems.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.