7 Ways to Improve Air Quality at Home
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental risks to public health.” In fact, every year sees more than 400 Americans dead from carbon monoxide poisoning (an odorless, colorless gas), and another 4,000 hospitalized.
The good news? Dangers like these are totally avoidable. All you need to do is be aware of CO and other air pollutants that pose threats to your health, and take a few simple steps to keep your home safe.
1. Stop Exposure Before It Starts
– Make sure gas stoves are properly adjusted to ensure they aren’t spewing high levels of carbon monoxide into the air.
– If you have a combustion space heater, the US Department of Energy advises that you make sure to avoid “unvented” models, which release carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides into the air. Electric space heaters are the only safe unvented models.
2. Air It Out
– The cool breeze from the air conditioner may feel refreshing, but the EPA warns that most heating and cooling systems don’t actually bring in fresh air. If the weather allows, it’s healthier to simply open the windows.
– If your kitchen has a gas stove, turn on the exhaust fan while you cook.
– Swap chemical sprays for fans and open windows if you need to get rid of a bad smell.
3. No Smoking
– In a 2006 report, the Surgeon General found that “separating [cigarette] smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.” Just because the window is open doesn’t mean you aren’t harming those around you when you light up inside. (double negative can be confusing – Just because the window is open does not mean that those around you are breathing healthy air when you light up inside.)
– If you have a wood-burning fireplace, make sure the flue is open and the chimney is clean and unblocked so carbon monoxide and other fumes are sent outside rather than building up in your living room.
4. Take It Outside
– Never idle your car or operate lawn mowers or other engines inside your garage–even if the door is open.
– If possible, do projects like painting and sanding outside. If that’s not an option, do your best to embark on home improvement journeys during seasons when it’s comfortable to leave the windows open.
– Never use a gas powered generator or power washer indoors as they emit carbon monoxide that can build up and kill in minutes.
5. Dry It Out
– Excessive humidity promotes mold growth, which poses health risks (and is just gross). To keep unwanted fungi friends from moving in, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that home humidity levels be kept below 50% at all times. If you live in a humid climate or notice signs of dampness in your home, invest in a dehumidifier to keep levels low.
6. Check It Twice
– Have all fuel-burning appliances inspected each year to ensure they are functioning properly.
– Install a carbon monoxide detector near your bedroom and on each additional level of your home, and replace it every five years.
7. Don’t Rely on Air Cleaners
– An EPA report concluded that “there is no scientific evidence that shows air-cleaning devices to be consistently and highly effective in reducing adverse health effects from indoor air pollutants.” While air cleaning devices can complement other steps you’re taking to improve your home air quality, simply buying a fancy air filter won’t cut it.
The dangers of poor home air quality are nothing to take lightly, but taking the right steps to protect you and your family can provide some well-deserved peace of mind. If you want to be alert everywhere you go, consider using a SPARROW wearable air-quality monitor to ensure every building you enter meets the same safety standards you have for your home.