Our homes have become as tightly sealed as a ziplock bag with tomato soup dangling upside down over a white couch - and this is where we spend most of our time. Although the air we breathe inside our homes may seem clean, it can be far more hazardous than outdoors. Here are five shockingly simple ways to change your toxic home into a clean air sanctuary.
1. Pop Open a Window
You can drastically decrease concentration of toxins, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), in your home by simply opening up a window. A mere 5 to 10 minutes a day can have a large impact on your air quality.
This is most important when engaging in activities that reduce your air quality, such as cooking, cleaning, painting or bringing newly purchased items into your home. When cooking, properly ventilate to get rid of vapors, grease and smoke that are released into the air. Many cleaning products have harsh chemicals and polluting fragrances. Try more natural cleaning methods. Obviously, paint fumes can be overwhelming. Ventilate by opening a window and using a vent/or fan.
Many people unwittingly bring toxic items into their home, which then unleash countless hazardous chemicals into the air. That new carpet smell is toxic, and it can off gas for up to five years. Particleboard can be manufactured with many chemicals which are then released into your home. This is also the case with materials that are dyed, like rugs, bedding and curtains. Do a bit of research before buying anything new and when you bring home your new treasures, be sure to ventilate properly.
2. Pick up a Plant
Ah mother nature, as beautiful as it is deadly. Especially when it comes to killing toxins in your home. Many common household items are continuously releasing invisible chemicals that are destroying your air quality. For instance, facial tissues, paper bags and napkins, paper towels, waxed paper, particleboard and synthetic fibers can all contain Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde exposure can cause irritations to the mouth, throat and nose, and swelling of the lungs and larynx.
Other common chemicals are Xylene, Trichloroethylene, Ammonia and Benzene. These are in printing ink, paint, detergents, dyes, glue, furniture wax, plastics and household cleaners. Being exposed to these chemicals can cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, eye irritations, confusion, heart problems, liver and kidney damage, unconsciousness and even coma.
NASA conducted the Clean Air Study and found the best air-filtering plants. The study found that the Florist’s Chrysanthemum and the Peace Lily can filter all five of the chemicals listed above. You can find a complete list of toxins, their effects and the best air-filtering plants in this handy dandy infographic.
3. Get a Hygrometer
What’s a hygrometer, you say? Good question. It’s much like a thermometer, but instead of measuring temperature, it measures your humidity levels. Usually, you can tell if you have too much or too little moisture in your home, but if you want to be absolutely certain that you have the ideal humidity level of 45%, you now know your options.
Anywhere between 30% and 50% humidity will serve you and your home well. If there is too much moisture, you’ll experience the growth of mold and rot; which creates the perfect accommodations for cockroaches and termites. In addition to adding to allergies, you may also notice wallpaper and paint peeling or see stains on your ceilings and walls. If the air is too dry, you may have dry noses, cracked skin and scratchy throats. These conditions also damage wood, drywall and other home furnishings.
If your current humidity level is not working for you, simply purchase a humidifier and/or dehumidifier. Typically, basements, bathrooms and laundry rooms are more humid than other living spaces. By properly ventilating these areas when needed, you may be able to avoid a dehumidifier.
4. Schedule an Air Duct Cleaning
Air duct cleaning may or may not be necessary in your home. To avoid scams, be sure to thoroughly vet your professional. The EPA offers guidelines on how to hire a professional to clean your air ducts. Here are some instances when it is recommended to have your ducts examined:
Home Renovation - If you have recently remodeled your home, especially if there was asbestos, lead paint, excessive dust or abatement, your ducts will likely need to be thoroughly cleaned. Seal off ducts during renovation and clean them after work is complete.
Creepy Critters - If you find any signs that you may have animals nesting in your ducts or HVAC system, be sure to have them removed and the ducts and HVAC unit cleaned.
Mold - Have ductwork and HVAC systems cleaned if there is visible mold growth.
Contaminants - If you’ve vacuumed and cleaned the fuzzy grime off your registers but are still noticing debris, pet hair, odors or other contaminants being spewed into the room, you probably want to get your ducts cleaned.
Unexplained Illness - If you’ve addressed every possible indoor allergen, yet, someone in your household is still suffering from unexplained allergy-related issues, your ducts and HVAC may be the culprit - easily banished by a duct cleaning.
Radon could be the most hazardous and invisible thing lurking in your home. Luckily, testing for it is quick, easy and inexpensive. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that greatly increases your chance of getting lung cancer. Actually, it is the top cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and is second only to smoking in overall lung cancer cases nationwide. It claims 21,000 lives every year - and this could be just as preventable as smoking.
It is estimated that 1 in 15 homes have elevated levels of radon, and no home is immune. This radioactive gas seeps into homes from the soil, which is contaminated by the natural decay of uranium. This is how radon is created and it enters the home through cracks in the foundation, walls and floors, construction joints, spaces in suspended floors and service and water pipes.
Testing for radon is fast, cheap and easy. Most local home improvement stores carry kits or you can buy one online. Kansas State University offers a discounted radon test kit through their National Radon Program Services.
To learn more about radon or if you have elevated levels and need to find a professional to help, visit the EPA Consumer Guide to Radon Reduction. It offers valuable information about radon dangers, testing and test results. Here, you can also find ways to improve your home or find a qualified contractor to make necessary changes. For more products that can help you improve your indoor air quality you can also click here to visit our online store.