Did you know that the little things you bring home with you are contributing to Indoor Air Pollution? According to the EPA, indoor air pollutants can be up to 5 times higher than outdoors. Couple that with the fact that most Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, and you can see how important it is to improve your indoor air quality.
Indoor Air Pollution Hazards
- Cleaning Supplies Affecting Indoor Air Pollution
- Do Gas Stoves Contribute To Indoor Air Pollution?
- Indoor Air Pollution From Beauty Products
- Air Freshners And The Harms To Your Indoor Air
- Pets Roles In Indoor Air Pollution
- DIY Materials Are Polluting Your Indoor Air
- Bringing The Outdoors In and Indoor Air Pollution
Cleaning Supplies Affecting Indoor Air Pollution
Cleaning supplies can be found in just about every home and office in the United States. As good of a job as they do cleaning your floors, sinks, bathrooms, countertops etc., they can have the opposite effect on indoor air quality. Many household cleaners emit VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are gasses that are released into the air from certain products. These gasses can be very harmful to your health causing irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, difficulty breathing, nausea and can even cause cancer. If you suffer from asthma, allergies or other respiratory diseases, VOCs can trigger and escalate the symptoms.
Some of the most common cleaning supplies in your home that are likely to emit VOCs are Detergent and Dishwashing tabs, Bathroom Cleaners, Floor Cleaners, Furniture Polish, Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners and any cleaners with Bleach or Ammonia. Here are a few tips on how to limit the amount of VOCs and improve your homes air quality…
- When using cleaning chemicals be sure to increase ventilation by opening windows, turning on fans and running your homes central air system.
- Use household cleaning supplies only as directed. NEVER mix chemicals and or cleaners.
- Throw away partially used cleaners that you don’t use regularly.
- Only buy what you need. Limit the amount of cleaning chemicals that are kept in your house.
- Store cleaning supplies outside your home such as in your garage or storage shed.
- Use natural cleaning products such as vinegar, citrus, baking soda and borax.
You can also look for products with the Safer Choice label. These products have been certified by the EPA as safer for the environment and for your health.
Do Gas Stoves Contribute To Indoor Air Pollution?
Gas stoves are often highly preferred by professional chefs and home chefs alike over electric stoves or cook tops. They hold a more consistent temperature, heat up quicker, can be used during power outages and are easier to clean than electric cook tops. However there is a concerning drawback to natural gas stoves, they emit harmful chemicals impacting your homes indoor air quality.
Using natural gas to cook releases harmful chemical compounds into your homes air such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO). All of which can cause people with asthma or other respiratory diseases to experience increased symptoms. Some of the common symptoms are difficulty breathing, chest pains, coughing and shortness of breath. Even those that don’t already have respiratory issues can be affected. With prolonged exposure these chemicals you can develop respiratory diseases such as asthma, COPD, or Lung Cancer.
So, the question is how do we limit the amount of harmful chemicals polluting our homes indoor air quality as a result of using Gas Stoves? Below are some tips to keeping you and your loved ones breathing easy…
- Use Exhaust Hood or Vent Fan. This alone can significantly reduce the amount of harmful pollutants released into your homes air.
- Make sure not to burn or char food. Overcooking food releases harmful carcinogens and can lead to cancer causing compounds.
- Consider switching to a electric stove.
- When cooking increase ventilation by opening windows, running ceiling fans and running your home’s HVAC system to circulate air.
- Switch to a high quality AC Filter that is capable of capturing micro particles and filtering them from your home’s air.
Indoor Air Pollution From Beauty Products
Did you know that according to a recent study by the NOAA consumer products (including beauty products) account for approximately half of VOCs released into the air? As cars and trucks have become more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, consumer products are now becoming a major contributor to emitting harmful VOCs into the air. Ready to rethink your morning routine yet? Or better yet, save some time by skipping the beauty routine all together!
Below are some of the beauty products and cosmetics that most contribute to your homes indoor air pollution
- Shampoo and Dry Shampoo
- Shampoo and Dry Shampoos often contain artificial fragrances and chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution.
- Consider switching to natural shampoos that are free from artificial dyes, fragrances and chemicals.
- Lotion (Especially lotions with artificial fragrances)
- Most lotions contain a laundry list of artificial dyes, fragrances and chemicals. Over the course of the day, these chemical compounds are released into the atmosphere causing pollution.
- Consider using natural lotions and moisturizers that are free from artificial chemicals, dyes and fragrances.
- Perfumes (Perfumes can contain over 1,000 different types of harmful VOCs)
- Did you know that products like perfumes can produce as much air pollution as cars? Yes you read that right…shocked? So are we. Now just imagine what that does to your indoor air quality.
- We recommend doing away with perfumes all together. There is strong evidence that there is a link between the chemicals used in making perfume and certain types of cancer.
- Hair Spray
- Back in the 1970’s the EPA restricted the use of CFCs as a propellant in hair sprays. You can check out some amazing vintage hairspray ads here! CFCs were and still are a major contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer and extremely harmful to the environment. But just because they are no longer used in the U.S. doesn’t mean the newer versions of hairspray are healthy for indoor air quality.
- Most hair sprays now use propellants like hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and other compressed gasses. These propellants release harmful VOCs into the air every time they are used. As discussed earlier, VOC’s are known to contribute to respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema and COPD.
- If you’re looking for a hair spray that is safer for the environment and won’t contribute to indoor air pollution you can check out some eco friendly options here.
- If you want to improve your indoor air quality a great place to start is your deodorant. Yes, the same thing that keeps you from smelling bad can actually have a pretty severe impact on the air you breathe. Like the many other beauty and personal products mentioned above deodorant contains high levels of VOCs. Additionally, deodorants that are spray based contain chemicals such as hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and other compressed gasses that contribute to indoor air pollution.
- Consider switching to a stick deoderant instead of spray and preferably one that contains natural ingredients. You can check out some eco friendly options here that are better for your indoor air quality.
Air Fresheners and the Harms to Your Indoor Health
Plug in air fresheners could be one of the single most harmful contributors to your homes indoor air pollution. Air fresheners contain hundreds of different chemical compounds to produce the desired scents. Unfortunately, the manufacturers are not required to list all these chemicals on their packaging so it’s often unclear exactly what all is in the products being sold. In fact, according to a recent study, less than 20% of ingredients in most air freshener gels were actually listed on the package or msds sheet.
Air fresheners are also known to contain phthalates, formaldehyde and naphthalene. These chemical compounds are found in approximately 86% of all air fresheners. Some of the harmful side effects of being exposed to these chemicals are asthma, allergies, respiratory diseases, birth defects, testosterone levels in men and reproductive issues. If that’s not enough to make you think twice about using air fresheners in your homes, these chemicals in combination with each other are shown to cause tissue damage and potentially cause cancer.
With this being said, we recommend discontinuing the use of air fresheners of any kind (spray, plug in, gels, scented candles and potpourri. Especially if you have young children, babies or expecting mothers in the house. If you are looking for a natural air freshener that is safe for indoor air you can check out some eco friendly non toxic options here.
Pets Roles In Indoor Air Pollution
We all love our little balls of fur. But that fur can actually contribute to your indoor air pollution. Pets shed their hair and along with that hair comes dead skin cells referred to as pet dander. If you suffer from allergies or asthma pet dander can trigger symptoms very rapidly. Even if you don’t have asthma or allergies, you may notice some of the symptoms such as watery or itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and difficulty breathing.
For those of us that own pets there’s a few key things we can do to limit their impact on our homes indoor air pollution. It’s especially important to follow these tips if you have young children, babies or expecting mothers in the home. They are all more prone to have reactions and suffer from symptoms.
- Sweep and Mop Weekly
- This may seem obvious but its critically important. The pet hair and dander settles down to the floors and must be cleaned regularly. If not, simply walking through your home could kick up microscopic particles that adversely affect your home indoor air quality. Also note, sweeping alone is not enough. You must use a damp or wet mop to remove the smaller dander particles.
- Dusting and Wiping Counters and Surfaces
- Similar to sweeping and mopping, this is a very important step. The pet hair and pet dander will settle on surfaces such as tables, pictures, furniture, fan blades etc. If not dusted (and wiped with a wet cloth) these tiny particles will continue to float around your house and impacting your homes indoor air quality.
- Vacuum Carpet and Furniture
- If possible, remove carpeting from your home and replace with tile, wooden or laminate flooring. Carpet is notorious for harboring microscopic organisms and harmful pet hair and pet dander. Even when vacuumed and cleaned regularly, it’s nearly impossible to remove all the pollutants from carpet. Also remember to vacuum and clean your furniture. Especially your pets favorite couch or chair.
- Does your dog or cat like to snuggle up with you at night? If so, make sure to launder your sheets weekly. When you lay down at night you are most exposed to the harmful effects of pet hair and pet dander right in your own bed. This can cause difficulty sleeping and affect your sleep patterns. Also be sure to wash all towels and blankets your pets come in contact with regularly as well.
- Air Filter – Furnace Filter
- One of the best ways to reduce your homes indoor air pollution is to invest in a quality Air Filter or Furnace Filter. No matter how well you clean and protect your home, you cannot remove all the smallest microscopic particles from your homes air. Be sure to change it regularly as it will need to be changed more frequently with pets in the home. Also be aware of when your pets shed the most. For most pets that’s going to be the summer months. During these months you’re also likely to be running your AC more often so be sure to change your filter more frequently.
- Proper Grooming
- Having your pets properly groomed for the current season is a great way to stay ahead of the pet dander and pet hair. By keeping their hair short during shedding seasons you can prevent a large amount of air pollution before it even begins. Not to mention, your pet will be much more comfortable and be able to enjoy those warmer months.
DIY Materials Are Polluting Your Indoor Air
According to the OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) building materials pose a dangerous threat to indoor air pollution. Many building materials contain chemicals that release VOCs and other hazardous chemicals into the air. This is especially concerning when coupled with them being indoors and not properly ventilated. Below we look at some of the common building materials you may have around your house that could be affecting indoor air quality…
- Installation of carpet or hard surfaced flooring is potentially hazardous to your indoor air quality. Removing old carpet stirs up all the old dust and dirt trapped in the carpet and the carpet pad. Also, installing the new carpet uses adhesives and glues that emit hazardous chemicals into the air. With hard flooring (wood, laminate, tile etc.) there is a lot of dust and debris from cutting and fitting the flooring together. In addition, a lot of these products have been treated with chemicals to improve their durability. These chemicals are then released into the air every time its cut. Be sure to open windows and increase ventilation when installing new flooring. Lastly, do not store unused flooring or carpet in living areas. Keep any excess materials away from living spaces.
- Walls and ceilings
- Was your home built before 1980? If so, it’s possible it could have asbestos. If you’re not sure always have a professional inspect the home to determine if it does have asbestos. Even if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Many other building materials such as sheet-rock, drywall, lumber, ceiling texture, grout, tile etc. contain chemicals that contribute to indoor air pollution. When remodeling or doing any DIY projects always make sure to open the home to provide proper ventilation. When dealing with any materials that produce dust (drywall, grout, wood etc.) be sure to wear dust masks. After the project is complete, be sure to store all materials safely away from living areas such as in a shed, garage, or storage unit.
- Paint and Stains
- We’ve all heard about the dangers of lead paint. If your home was built before 1978 there’s a good chance it has lead paint in it. If you’re not sure, reach out to a professional to have your home inspected. Even though lead is not allowed in today’s paint, there are still harmful chemicals. When painting always open windows and turn on fans to increase ventilation. Be sure to store any unused paint outside the home and away from living areas. Also make sure to properly seal the tops of paint cans and properly clean/dispose of any brushes and materials used to paint. If left inside the home, these chemicals will increase indoor air pollution and potentially cause serious health concerns.
You’ll see many common tips when completing DIY projects. It’s important to know what types of materials you are dealing with and how to properly dispose of them. If you have any questions or aren’t sure refer to the manufacture for safe handling instructions. Always be sure you are working in well ventilated areas and use proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as dust masks, respirators, eye protection, ear protection etc. When the project is complete, store any unused materials in a storage shed, garage, carport, storage unit etc. Do not leave unused materials in the house as they will continue to emit harmful chemicals into your home.
Bringing The Outdoors In and Indoor Air Pollution
Often times we unknowingly bring the outdoor air pollution inside affecting indoor air quality. Any time you open a door or window there’s an opportunity to bring in outdoor air pollution. Opening up and air out the house is often a good thing. It can allow fresh air in and give some of the stale old air currently in your home a chance to get out. However, be aware of your surroundings before you do this. For example, if its pollen season you man not want to open up the house. Or, if you live in a dusty dry climate. Also, if there is construction nearby you may not want to open up and let the dust in. You can always check the air quality index to see how the air is in your zip code.
We also need to be aware of what we bring in the front door. Without realizing it, you could be bringing items into your home that could severely wreck your homes indoor air quality. Below we look at a few common examples…
- Where did you go today? The mall, the grocery store, the park, the bus stop, school, work etc. Well, so did your shoes and now you’re bringing all that in with you. This is especially important if you work in an environment that is exposed to chemicals such as landscaping, factory work, pool cleaning, construction etc. It’s always a good idea to leave your shoes outside or to take them off at the front door to avoid tracking them throughout the house.
- Similar to shoes, your clothes went where you did today. What are they bringing back with you? If you were exposed to any type of chemicals or areas with high levels of pollution be careful of bringing that home with you. If you do, make sure to launder the clothes right away and don’t let them contact other clothing. But it can also be more innocent, such as did you go to a park with lots of trees during pollen season? If so, you may want to change before sitting on the couch.
- Above we looked at several household items that contribute to indoor air pollution. Such as cleaning chemicals, beauty products and air fresheners. Are you bringing these home with you? When making your next shopping list pause for a moment and consider what you are bringing into your house.
- We talked about pets and their fur above. But if your pet is an outdoor pet, what are they bringing back with them? Did they run through a lawn that was just sprayed with chemicals? Did they roll around in a pile of dust where construction is going on? Are they bringing with them pollen’s from outside? We love pets that have the freedom to run around outside. But be aware of where they go. If needed, give them a quick bath before coming back inside the house. You’ll both appreciate it.
Indoor Air Pollution – What’s Next?
There will always be something that affects your homes indoor air pollution. But by following these guidelines and tips you’ll be a step ahead of the game. One way to make sure you keep your homes air clean is to sign up for an air filter subscription service. Most homeowners don’t remember to change their air filter – furnace filter regularly. By having an automatic subscriptions that mails the filter to your door when it’s time to change you’ll never forget to change your filter again.