There are seven major categories of indoor air pollutants. If you know what they are, you can start reducing your exposure and improve your indoor air quality. Do you know them all?
The Seven Types of Common Indoor Air Pollutants
1. Outdoor pollutants–Factory emissions, car exhaust and particulate matter get indoors and have a hard time getting out again without effort being made. Our homes are very well sealed to conserve energy, but they also keep unwanted pollution inside where we breathe it in for hours out of every day. Make sure your home is well-ventilated and that fans are used when cooking and in the bathroom.
2. Volatile Organic Compounds–Furniture, carpeting, equipment, personal hygiene products, air fresheners and other objects and substances you find in your workplace either are or produce these irritating and sometimes even unhealthy chemicals.
Formaldehyde is only one chemical that is commonly found in furniture, carpeting and adhesives. Paint and varnish also off-gas, sometimes for years. Feeling sick at work? It might be your building.
Choosing greener building materials and decorative items can make a big difference. Ask what adhesives and chemicals are used to make the things you buy at the home improvement and furniture stores.
3. Mold spores–Mold is everywhere and just needs moisture, warmth and food to grow. If you are sensitive to mold, even damp weather makes it hard for you to breathe. Controlling the humidity in your home and fixing leaks promptly are the keys to preventing mold growth.
4. Dust mites–There are tiny bugs living off our dead skin cells anywhere that has stuffing or upholstery. That’s your bed, pillows, couch, office chair, pretty much everywhere. And their feces can be very irritating or even cause asthma attacks.
Wash and dry bedding on hot at least once a week to keep dust mites at bay.
5. Tobacco smoke–Even if you are not a smoker yourself, second-hand smoke can damage your indoor environment. Smoke outdoors and ask your guests to do the same. Or better yet–quit!
6. Germs and bacteria–Did you know that you are most contagious BEFORE you exhibit symptoms of a cold or flu? And the best way to keep your germs to yourself is NOT covering your cough with your hand or sneezing into a tissue. Use your elbow–they are teaching this in kindergarten now, but most of us are not used to it yet.
NOTE: With the Ebola virus in the news, we would like to point out that Ebola is NOT contagious until a patient is showing symptoms. The above tip refers to COLD AND FLU ONLY.
7. Cleaning products–Whether you prefer lemon or pine, Fresh Spring or Mountain Fresh, all of those scents are polluting your indoor air. Try greener options and unscented cleaners to keep your indoor air clean. The same applies to scented candles. You are better off putting a pot of water with cinnamon and other spices to simmer on the back burner of your stove to make your house smell like the holidays!
Many of the products we use every day add contaminants to our indoor air. But you are in some degree of control of all of the categories listed above. What can you do today to improve your indoor air and minimize indoor air pollutants?