Breathing better air isn’t a right, it’s a necessity. Most people assume that closing their windows will help keep in good air inside their homes, but that isn’t the case. Most toxic air quality can be found indoors more than outside. In fact, opening the windows to let in better air, is actually, at times, a good reason. According the the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) The average American spends approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Indoor levels of pollutants may be 2 to 5 times – and occasionally more than 100 times – higher than outdoor pollutant levels. Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. (Source)
Here is a list of the some the most harmful indoor air pollutants and what you can do to avoid them.
• Radon: An odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that comes naturally from uranium in the soil, radon is suspected by the EPA of causing as many as 30,000 deaths a year from lung cancer. If you suspect that you may have a radon problem in your home, click here.
• Carbon Monoxide: This odorless gas is emitted by kerosene or gas space heaters, wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, and gas cook tops; it can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and at high levels even death. To help prevent carbon monoxide from accumulating in you home or office, make sure you heating equipment, stoves, and fireplaces are vented to the outside and inspected every year. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your basement or wherever your heating system is located, and in your home’s living area.
• PBDEs: Polybrominated Diphenylethers are chemicals used as flame retardants in such diverse items as children’s sleepwear, upholstered furniture, mattresses, computers, and office equipment. They can be released into the air as fine particles of dust that settle in your home or workplace.
• Household Cleaners and Disinfectants: A less obvious source of indoor air pollution, maybe because they often smell as fresh, these products contain organic chemicals-compounds that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat; trigger headaches, and cause nausea. Whenever possible, use nontoxic cleaners and or natural solutions: vinegar for disinfecting, lemon juice for wiping down fixtures, and baking soda for scrubbing. If you must use conventional cleaners, make sure rooms are ventilated with fresh air.
• Paint: More hazardous sources of organic chemicals than household cleaners and disinfectants, paints, paint strippers, and varnish removers may contain the possible carcinogens benzene and methylene chloride. Check labels for warnings, and use products containing these chemicals only outside or in well-ventilated areas. Better yet, use low-VOC paints, such as the Pristine Eco Spec line from Benjamin Moore.
• Formaldehyde: Appliances that burn fuel (such as heaters and ovens), household cleaners, and some paints also contain small amounts of these chemicals. It can cause irritation, along with allergic reactions, asthma attacks, and possible cancer. The biggest sources of formaldehyde is most homes, however, is furniture and building materials, such as the adhesives that bind the pressed wood in particleboard. Usually these products give off the most formaldehyde when they’re new, so vent rooms with fresh air as long as you detect a chemical odor. If the air is uncomfortably warm or humid, run the air conditioner. Heat accelerates the release of formaldehyde into the air.
The best way to avoid exposure to high amounts of indoor air pollutants is to get fresh air and as much as possible. If you are in an office all day, take a lunch break outside, get a fan that can circulate outside air throughout your office, get some indoor plants or trees to help purify the air around you. Open your windows at home let the outside air set you free of harmful air quality.
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