Friday, July 03, 2009

10 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

By Shireen Qudosi

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people spend 90% of their time indoors, but that indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Whether in your home or business, follow these 10 easy steps to ensuring you have the cleanest indoor air possible.

Get Clean Air

1. Don't Allow Smoking Indoors - There is no safe level of second hand smoke. Each year, second hand smoke sends 7,500-15,000 children aged 18 months or younger to the hospital. Hundreds of thousands of children will develop respiratory tract infections from second hand smoke this year. It's not even good enough to allow smoking outside of doors or on balconies, as the smoke simply re-enters indoors. Try to designate a smoking area at least 20 feet away from the premises.

2. Carbon Monoxide Detector - Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that kills over 400 people each year. Carbon monoxide levels can rise very quickly in unventilated areas. Make sure you install a functioning detector in your home, preferably near your bedroom.

3. Test for Radon - Scientists estimate that radon causes thousands of deaths annually. Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock and can only be detected through testing.
4. Fix Leaks - Rain and high humidity can bring moisture indoors, creating dampness, mold and mildew. Mold aside, dampness alone is associated with higher risk of wheezing, coughing and asthma symptoms. Check your roof, foundation and basement or crawlspace once a year to catch leaks or moisture problems and route water away from the building's foundation.

5. Air Conditioners and Dehumidifiers - Asthma is the leading serious chronic illness of children in the U.S. Help keep asthma triggers away by fixing leaks and drips as soon as they start. Standing water and high humidity encourage the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew, some of the most common triggers that can worsen asthma. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner when needed, and clean both regularly - or get one that's self-evaporative.

6. Pets - Pet allergies can come from an animal’s saliva, urine, feces and dead skin cells, so no pet is “hypoallergenic.” If someone in your family has pet allergies, keep your pet outdoors. Moving your pet from indoors to out can help reduce exposure to these allergens. However, cat allergens can stay in place for 20 weeks or more. If you must keep your pet indoors, keep it away from primary heavily trafficked areas. Note that toting pets around has become a new fashion statement. If you find pets at the work place or in public areas such as stores and supermarkets, do not hesitate to talk to the manager about these health concerns.

7. Dust Mites - Dust allergies are actually a reaction to dust mites. Dust mites are microscopic pests that need moisture to survive. Since dust mites feed on human skin, and live in bedding, pillows, mattresses, stuffed toys, upholstery and carpets. Dust mites can be controlled through intensive vacuuming, wood/linoleum floors (versus carpets), and keeping humidity levels below 50% (this can be achieved through a dehumidifier).

8. Asbestos Control - Asbestos is a mineral fiber that can still be found in many older homes. Inhaling tiny asbestos fibers can increase the risk of lung cancer and other lung diseases. Pipe coverings, flooring, shingles and roofs are likely places to find asbestos.

9. Ventilation - Proper ventilation is one of the best ways to improve air quality, (provided that the outside air is not worse than indoor air). High levels of moisture in your home increase dampness and the growth of mold, which not only damage your home but threaten health. Dampness and mold are linked to increased wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks in people with allergies. Consider investing in a
UV Air Purifier that removes allergens as well as odors and infectious microorganisms.

10. Flooring - Avoid using carpet whenever possible. Carpet traps unhealthy particles -- including chemicals, dust mites, pet dander, dirt and fungi - and vacuuming can make them airborne. If you do have carpets, use a HEPA (high efficiency particle air) vacuum cleaner to ensure better air quality. Hard surface flooring, like wood, tile or cork can be readily cleaned by damp mopping.

With these ten steps, you should be well on your way to cleaner indoor air.

Shireen Qudosi is a green expert working with Air Conditioner Home.

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