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The Irony of Indoor Air Quality

Posted on March 07, 2013
by Wendy Stackhouse
Window in Italy
Photo by danagouws via stock.xchng

We have made a lot of positive progress on air quality in recent decades:

We no longer use leaded gasoline.

Smog checks and better made cars create less pollution.

Smoking rates continue to decrease.

We have banned smoking in many public indoor spaces, workplaces and even some outdoor common areas, lowering exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Clean Air Act has regulated some emissions from factories and power plants.

But, as we all know, our outdoor air still needs improvement, especially in the area of carbon emissions. However, some of our attempts to solve other environmental challenges have made our indoor air quality worse instead of better.

We have sealed our homes and buildings as much as possible, to save energy and the cost of heating and cooling those indoor environments. We let air in through our ventilation systems, but when that outside air brings in particles and other pollutants, we don’t let those out again. Our indoor air can be as much as 50% more polluted than the outdoor air. The same problem happens with volatile organic compounds contained in cleaning products, paint, adhesives and other chemicals that are off-gassed by furniture and floor coverings. They cannot escape. Air fresheners, sprays, pesticides, you name it, it stays inside. And we spend as much as 90% of our time indoors.

At AirTek we have some recommendations:

When the weather permits, open the windows. Let some new air in!

Change to greener cleaning products with low volatile organic compounds. There are many new cleaners to try and even old standbys like white vinegar can do a lot of the jobs we have gotten accustomed to using harsh chemicals to do.

Be sure to paint in well-ventilated areas and keep the ventilation going, including fans, until fumes have dispersed. Three days after painting is a good rule of thumb.

Leave new furniture unwrapped outside for a couple of days before bringing it in the house to allow formaldehyde and other VOCs to off-gas away from your living space.

Keep your ventilation system clean and well maintained. Your air filters won’t do you any good if they are dirty and clogged. Bacteria can collect and grow in ducts and vents, causing illness and allergies.

Saving energy is important–turn off the heat before you open the windows!–but your health should be as big a consideration as cost!

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