5 ways to make the air in your home healthier

5 ways to make the air in your home healthier

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Most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors exposed to potential sources of pollution than can lead to discomfort and illness.

In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that indoor air may be up to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.  Air in a home is a combination of a multitude particles made airborne by all kinds of normal activities ranging from cooking, walking on carpet, playing with your pets, or even just getting up off the sofa. Also there's moisture, mold, and chemicals from carpets, clothing, paint, cabinets and other common items.

That's why ventilation and clean air are critical to a healthy environment. People with asthma, allergies and other sensitivities breathe easier with clean air.

Any movement or vibration can create airborne particles. Airborne allergens, mold spores, bacteria, and dust mite/insect feces are also present. These particulates are transported through the air and the forced air heating/cooling system to all points in the home. They can be drawn into the respiratory system with each breath, potentially causing sickness and other health issues. Also, odors in the home are all too common.

Pets, cooking, painting and even new furniture and carpets create odors that most would consider undesirable. One source of airborne problems, which may or may not be detectable as an odor, is volatile organic compounds. These (VOCs) are emitted as gases from items in your home, such as cleaning chemicals, carpet, furniture and more. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (by up to ten times) than outdoors. VOCs can cause headaches as well as eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, and in extreme cases, damage to the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system.

The VOCs are chemicals that evaporate at room temperature. Depending on a person’s exposure and sensitivity, VOCs can cause immediate or acute health problems such as headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and difficulty breathing. If you’ve ever felt light headed after painting a small room, you're familiary with the effects of VOCs, noted Rebecca Morley, executive director of the Healthy House Institute.

VOCs, the most widely known of which is formaldehyde, can be found in a variety of common household items, including building materials, cleaning products, personal-care products and furniture.

“We’re trying to get people to be aware of the things they bring into their own homes,” Morley said.

To improve the air quality in your home, follow these tips:

1. Purge perfumes and scented products

The first thing two experts said was, “No more scented products!”

“Get rid of the plug-in air fresheners, and in my opinion get rid of all of the scented air fresheners,” said Charlene W. Bayer, Ph.D., principal research scientist at Georgia Tech University and chief science officer for Hygieia Science. “You’re putting chemicals on top of chemicals and increasing your exposure. Particularly with young children and asthmatics in the home, there’s no reason to do that. If you have an odor, clean it up.”

Morley agreed.

“It’s a chemical soup of perfumes around us, even our deodorants and shampoos are full of perfumes,” she said. “Think long and hard before bringing any chemicals into your home.”

2. Paint odors away

If your home is beset with unpleasant odors, there are products that can be added to paint that eliminate many unpleasant smells. You can get rid of nasty smells and have a nice looking room when you're done.

Ionic Paint Additive, an award winning technology by Air-ReNu (patent pending), can permanently eliminate smoking odors, cat urine odors, and improve indoor air quality.

Ionic Paint Additive is a blend of 27 natural inorganic minerals made from a variety of elements: aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, potassium and lithium. These minerals are grounded into micro-particles, creating an additive that easily mixes with interior house paint. When the additive is mixed with interior house paint and applied to the walls within a home or office, the treated surface becomes a permanent air purification system. Painted surfaces containing Ionic Paint Additive will remain effective for eight to twelve years, keeping your home or office environment, free of offensive odors.

The science behind the technology is air ionization. The purification process is activated by normal air movement (convection current) within a room. As the warmer air passes over the treated wall surface, electrified atoms (anions) are released, which are electrostatically attracted to the positively charged floating dust particles, which contain the odors and toxins; these are oxidized and removed from the air.

3. Add an air filter

Room or whole-house filters can purge the air of many contaminants that elude other types of cleaning. Some contaminants are so small that they may escape through the vacuum cleaner or never land on a surface to be cleaned up.

For example, electronic air cleaners and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can capture the smallest particles and biological pollutants, such as bacteria, while germicidal lights kill them. Room size and whole-house air purification systems are available.

For a whole house filter, Jeffrey C. May, principal scientist with May Indoor Air Investigations, recommends a minimum of a MERV 8 filter. According to the Healthy House Institute, the MERV rating indicates how efficiently the filter removes small particles from the air. The higher the number the better, May noted.  By comparison, most home furnace filters have a MERV rating of 4 or less.

Even with a filter, you have to be aware of what pollutants might be in the home. “If you’re smoking in the house, the filter won’t make a difference,” Morley said. “You can’t have a filter in the bedroom and hope that your whole house will have clean air.”

Morley recommends using an air filter or purifier that does not generate ozone, a gas which is also a health irritant.

4. Control humidity

Surprisingly, 30 to 60 percent of the fresh air in a house comes from the basement or crawlspace, according to May. Dampness can lead to mold growth in a basement and throughout the home.

“Most people don’t think they’re living in their basement or crawlspace but they really are,” he said. “For a basement or crawlspace you should be able to eat off of any surface, that’s how clean it should be.”

Morley agrees dampness is a problem. “You don’t want your home to be too humid and have condensation or mold problems, but you don’t want it to be too dry,” she said. “The rule of thumb is around 60 percent humidity is about right depending on the season and climate.”

5. Pass the smell test

Don’t buy products that have a strong chemical odor. If it smells strong in the store, it will be worse when you take it home.

“Put your nose in it; if you can smell it in the store don’t buy it.” Bayer said.

That applies especially to things like furniture, carpet, fabric products. Formaldehyde is often found in furniture and cabinets made from particle board.

Many natural products emit VOCs as well. Bayer cautioned against natural products with a strong lemon aroma, for instance.

“The natural product limonene gives it the lemon smell, but it still is a VOC,” she said. Instead, opt for basic soap and water for most cleaning tasks, rather than scented products.

Read more about indoor air quality.

Topics: Dehumidifiers and Air Purifiers, Going Green, Indoor Air Quality, Paint | Low VOC and No VOC, Remodeling, Sustainability Trends & Statistics

Companies: Ionic Paint Additive

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