The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that the some adults may spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors. If the indoor air quality is poor, some who are already more at risk for respiratory illness, asthma and heart disease may spend the majority of their time breathing in dander, mold,carbon monoxide and other toxic particulates.
Improving the quality of the indoor air can alleviate chronic headaches and cold-like symptoms and prevent more serious health issues such as respiratory infections.
There are many steps you can take to improve indoor air quality that are simple and economical.
1. Practice Humidifier Safety
Cool-mist humidifiers are available in a variety of models including small, inexpensive table-top models and those that are built into a home’s HVAC system. A contaminated humidifier may actually be bad for your health. Humidifier fever and hypersensitivity pneumonitis can be caused when biological contaminants in the humidifier are projected into the air. The Mayo Clinic offers these tips for keeping a humidifier clean:
- Use demineralized or distilled water
- Empty and clean the humidifier every three days
- Rinse the tank thoroughly after cleaning
- Change the filters according to the manufacturers directions or more frequently if they appear to look dirty
If you notice the area around the humidifier becoming damp, reduce the frequency of use and turn the unit down.
2. Add a Little Green to Your Home
Some of the best ways to improve indoor-air quality are also eco-friendly. When possible, open windows instead of running the air conditioner to freshen up a room. Use environmentally friendly, chemical-free cleansers and youll automatically decrease the amount of toxins in your home. Vinegar is a versatile natural cleaner and can replace many of the products you currently use. The following recipe is an all-purpose cleaner that gets windows, counters and appliances sparkling clean:
- Mix equal parts distilled white vinegar and distilled water in a spray bottle. Add approximately three drops of liquid dish detergent and 10 drops essential oil of lemon. Shake to mix.
As we discussed in this article, houseplants can remove pollutants from the air; some of the best cleaners are Gerbera Daisies, Spider Plants and Bamboo Palms. For optimal affect, Clean Air Gardening suggests using 15 plants in 6-inch containers scattered throughout an average home of up to 2,000 square feet. That may sound like a jungle of plants, but if your home has only 5 main rooms it breaks down to only 3 small plants per room.
Bonus: It seems plants clean the air so effectively that they can actually increase productivity! See the inforgraphic below for the details.
3. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Keeping track of levels of dangerous toxins like carbon monoxide can literally save lives. Every home appliance that burns fuel, including the fireplace, stove or heater, has the potential to leak carbon monoxide. Older homes where appliances may not receive regular maintenance are especially vulnerable. In addition to having appliances serviced regularly, a monitoring system can prevent a tragedy from happening. Home security systems dont just protect a house from break ins. For example, the website www.securitycompanies.com/ discusses security packages that include monitoring for carbon monoxide leaks, freezing and fire. It may be a good idea to search your area for a similar service. Services like these can help seniors remain safe and independent.
If you frequently experience confusion, nausea, headaches or dizziness inside your home you may have CO poisoning. Leave your house immediately and go to the emergency room. Report your concerns to a physician and a simple blood test will confirm carbon monoxide exposure.
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John Hopkins is a stay-at-home dad and part-time handyman who loves the outdoors. He writes about his experiences in building, environmentalism and parenting.