Indoor pollution arising from sources such as pressed wood furniture, chemical cleaning products, and carpets is common in American homes, with the Environmental Protection Agency reporting indoor air quality can be up to five times worse than the air outside. Depending on the type of toxins contained in a home, health risks such as asthma, skin and eye irritations, and organ damage can arise. Below you will find just a few known sources of health issues, as well as suggestions on how to improve your indoor air quality.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
There is a wide array of sources of toxins in typical homes, each of which can increase the risk of specific conditions or diseases. Paint strippers, for instance, are known carcinogens, and some can cause damage to organs as well as reproductive problems. Formaldehyde, meanwhile, can be emitted by some manufactured/pressed wood furniture, permanent press fabrics (such as those used in curtains and furniture), and household products like glue, pesticides, cosmetics, detergents, and more. This chemical can irritate the eyes/skin/nose/throat and increase breathing issues for people with asthma or pulmonary disease. Another source of indoor air pollution is dander (dead skin released by pets), which can cause intense coughing or wheezing for those with even low-sensitivity pet allergies.
Keeping Humidity Levels in Check
Air that is too dry or too humid can also affect your indoor air quality. In colder climates, dry air that blows in through doors and windows causes the relative humidity to drop dramatically. Extremely hot weather can have the same effect, reducing the ability of air to hold in moisture and making it easier for allergens, viruses, and bacteria to enter the body. One study by J Noti and colleagues, for instance, shows that higher indoor humidity levels inactivate flu virus particles. Poor humidity levels can also cause coughing, sore throat, thirst, tiredness, and more. A whole house humidifier for larger homes can help keep your indoor humidity levels constant in all spaces. For optimal health, keep relative humidity at a level of between 30% and 50%. Avoid setting humidity levels too high to avoid the growth and proliferation of mold.
Removing or Reducing Toxin Sources
If it is time to renew a few pieces of furniture, opt for eco-friendly items made with bamboo and other ‘green’ materials, and make sure that soft furnishings do not contain flame retardants. Aim to replace carpets with hard flooring if you have pets. You should also make an effort to reduce your reliance on chemical cleaning products such as bleach, opting instead for powerful yet effective cleaning methods (such as the use of a steam vacuum cleaner). Additional steps to take include ventilating your home every day (by opening windows for a few minutes), using exhaust fans, and keeping smoke and tobacco away from your home.
The EPA warns that many American homes have poor indoor air quality. This can cause a wide range of problems, from itchy eyes to reproductive issues. To improve your indoor air quality, replace toxic paints, furniture, and carpeting with purer materials and items. Finally, ensure your humidity levels remain at between 30% and 50%.