Most of us spend the majority of our time indoors.
In fact, researchers show that we actually spend somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of our day INSIDE. This percentage is shocking, considering just a few generations ago, our ancestors spent most of their time outdoors and their homes had more opportunities for outside air to filter in.
Because we spend so much time indoors, it’s very important that you are breathing the highest quality of air. Unfortunately, in most cases, quite the opposite is true. Study after study has shown that indoor air is more often than not less healthy than outdoor air.
How do you go about improving the indoor air you spend so much time breathing? There are many opportunities to do so, but the best ways are often the simplest and easiest day-to-day habits you can change.
Formaldehyde is a toxin that emits a gas that is toxic to your lungs and other organs. Unfortunately, formaldehyde is found in many household products. One of the biggest offenders, however, is any pressed wood product. This could be anything from furniture made of pressed wood materials like MDF, plywood or particleboard. Formaldehyde is also found in some laminate flooring options or even in trim and home-building materials made of medium density fiberboard. By minimizing your family’s exposure to formaldehyde, you will limit the poisonous, toxic gas it emits in your home.
The humidity levels in your home play a big part in the indoor air quality. The higher the humidity level in your home, the more toxins such as formaldehyde emit their toxic gasses. Humidity also plays a huge part in mold growth. Mold thrives in damp environments. The higher the humidity in your home, the faster the growing mold will continue to spread. Mold is an organic toxin, which means if it finds food to nourish its growth, it will take off and spread wherever it can. You don’t want a humid environment to promote this kind of toxin. Lastly, higher humidity also speeds the reproduction of allergen-inducing dust mites. The higher the humidity in your home, the more dust mites you will find, which means you will have more severe allergic reactions. Ideally you want to keep your home’s humidity between 35% and 45%.
PREVENT WATER LEAKS
You may not think that water leakage has ANYTHING to do with air quality, but it really does. Water leaks not only mean an annoying process of cleaning up the damage, but it also translates into a likely chance you have mold growing behind walls or under floors. Mold needs very little to grow, and its most thriving environment is a damp, wet area. When a drain or supply line leaks in your house, more often than not it ruins your drywall, either on the outside or inside of your walls. Wet drywall is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Once the mold starts growing, it releases its toxic spores into the air you breathe. If it’s in the air inside your home it just gets recycled through your HVAC system and spreads to other rooms and areas. Watching for potential water leaks and keeping unnecessary moisture in check will help prevent mold and mildew from starting.
Homes have evolved over the last few decades to be tightly-sealed environments for us to reside in. Sometimes, houses can be sealed SO tight they don’t allow enough clean outdoor air inside to filter through the house. When it’s winter time, your home recycles the same air over and over again through your vents and HVAC system. You’re breathing air that is stale and certainly not fresh. This means the air quality is very poor. The best way to combat this reduction of air quality in your home is to naturally ventilate when you can. Open windows and doors as often as possible to let clean air in to dilute the toxic air inside. In the winter you can open up one room at a time for 15 to 20 minutes to allow clean air in. Another way to ventilate your home is through bath fan vents and cooking vents that pull your indoor air outside. If you open a window while these fans are running, you can double the effect by pulling clean air in while the vent pulls old air out.
LOSE THE AIR FRESHENERS
Store-bought air fresheners, especially those in aerosol cans, can add many toxins to your indoor air. We know now that the chemicals they add to these products affect our lungs and our respiratory system in a negative way. When you spray an air freshener in your home, it releases vapor droplets in the form of spray, causing toxins to be spread into your home’s air. Store-bought candles are just as bad, as they emit toxic fumes and gasses as they burn.
The best alternative is to use a diffuser and essential oils to freshen the smell of your home. You can also use these with water and vinegar in the form of a spray to freshen rooms and carpets.
LEAVE YOUR SHOES AT THE DOOR
Wearing your shoes indoors not only brings dirt into your home, but it can also bring in chemicals from lawn treatments, as well as mold spores you’ve picked up outside. Chemicals from lawn treatments and mold spores will easily be released into the air as the friction between the floor and your shoes rubs the toxins off. Once these toxins are in the air, they will be pushed from room to room, affecting the quality of the air. The best practice is to remove shoes at the door and have a rug in that area to catch the dirt, chemicals and toxins. Make sure to vacuum the rug or take it outside to clean often, especially in the summer.
Cleaning isn’t just to keep germs away or to make your house look good. Cleaning is actually important for your home’s health. Dust and dander from people and pets are detrimental to indoor air quality. They affect your respiratory system and cause an allergic reaction within your body as a response to the allergens and foreign toxins. Unfortunately, carpets hold onto a lot of dust and dust mites. However, routine vacuuming can help remove them. It’s also important to launder bedding, stuffed animals and drapes in HOT water often in order to remove these allergens on a regular basis.
DON’T STORE HOBBY MATERIALS
Solvents, paints, glues and varnishes SHOULD NOT be stored inside. These materials contain many toxins that can be released into the air in the form of toxic gasses. This is especially true if these products are being stored in an area that is warm or high in moisture. Generally speaking, the higher the moisture or temperature, the more toxic gas is emitted into the air. The problem with toxic gasses is that they are a form of vapor, which means you are breathing those toxic gasses directly into your lungs. If you breathe in enough toxins, they can actually end up embedding themselves into the tissue of your lungs creating a sick and toxic body as well.
CHANGE YOUR CLEANING PRODUCTS
While cleaning your home IS important for your indoor air quality, WHAT you clean with is even more important. A clean house doesn’t always mean a healthy house. The cleaning products you use get sprayed into the air as a vapor as well as land on surfaces that your family is touching on a regular basis. If you’re using cleaning products that have toxic chemicals in them, you are adding chemicals your indoor air. This is a way to reduce your indoor air quality drastically. Opt for cleaners that use natural components and don’t contain toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, you may not always be able to find a list of ingredients on bottles, but by doing your research online beforehand, you can save yourself from buying a product that is going to reduce your indoor air quality.
TEST FOR RADON
Radon is a toxin that is EVERYWHERE. Everyone has some radon in the house. The problem arises when the levels of radon exceed the levels of safety. Radon is a gas that is heavier than air and so oftentimes it pools in the lowest levels of a home. Radon is a cancer-causing gas that affects the tissue in the lungs. It’s the number-one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and is being blamed more and more for lung disease in otherwise healthy individuals. In recent years, home inspectors have been finding higher levels of radon in many homes simply because we seal our homes up extra tight to keep our energy use at a more efficient level. The more tightly sealed your home is, the more risk you run of pulling in air from below your house, where radon is the highest. It’s always a good idea to have a home tested before purchasing it, but you can perform your own at home test with a Radon Test Kit from a hardware store or online.
Just a few small steps in the right direction and you can drastically improve the air quality in your home. By doing so, you are creating a healthy home environment for you and your family.