Breathing is as common as, well, breathing. We don’t give it much thought because most of us have never had to, but that doesn’t mean that air quality in the home isn’t important. We might view our homes as exempt from air pollution, a kind of safety zone where we can relax and breathe deeply, but in truth our homes’ air may very well be more polluted than the air outside. Common in-home pollutants include fire-retardants, house dust, chemicals tracked into the home from the street or lawn, and chemical residue from household cleaning products, as well as allergens like pet dander and dust mites. Pressed-wood products like cabinets often contain formaldehyde in their bonding glue, and over time small amounts of gas are released into the air. Children as well as the elderly may be more sensitive to these chemicals and allergens and their bodies may be less capable of dealing with pollutants. Some measure of air purification may be necessary to improve home air quality.
Fortunately, homeowners can take control over the level of air pollution in their homes. First, make certain your vacuum uses a HEPA filter to reduce levels of dangerous pollutants like lead and brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs). HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate absorption) are also excellent at removing accumulated pet dander, pollen, and dust mites. Mop hard floors regularly to clean the dust layers that vacuuming cannot. Also, place a floor mat at each entrance to the home and encourage family members to wipe their feet and remove their shoes before walking on any main living areas. This will minimize the amount of pollutants that are transferred into your living space.
Additionally, be sure to research any household cleaning products you have on hand. What kinds of chemicals do they contain? Heavily-scented cleaners like laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, and bathroom tile cleaner may smell pleasant, but they also emit dozens of different chemicals into the air. Improve your home’s air quality by exploring naturally scented or scent-free household cleaning products. Consider baking soda and lemon juice as natural cleaning alternatives.
Household plants can also do wonders for home air quality by reducing air pollution and producing oxygen. Depending on local temperature, sun exposure, and humidity, you may be able to coordinate a natural landscape in your home that will greatly enhance air purification. Speak to local plant nursery representatives who may be able to provide information if air quality in your home is a concern. Your home insurance company may also have information about air home quality, including testing for radon (a naturally occurring gas that results from the decay of uranium, which is in turn found in most soils) as well as information regarding pollutants specific to your region.