Air pollution is thought of as an outside concern, like smog hanging in the air. However, the air inside homes and offices can be more polluted than the air outside. The elderly, children and people suffering asthma and respiratory problems are especially sensitive to indoor pollutants. But even healthy adults can suffer health effects many years later, after repeated exposure.

Modern buildings are constructed airtight, so pollutants and irritants can't escape and fresh air doesn't infiltrate. So what can you do to clean up the air you breathe'

Increase ventilation

The simplest way to improve indoor air quality is to let in fresh air. Whenever the temperatures outside are mild enough, open a window or door to allow fresh air in. This will allow pollutants and irritants to escape and dilute their concentrations indoors.

Eliminate Sources

Cleaners, fragrances and household chemicals are common sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in indoor air. Most chemicals are derived from petroleum products. Inhalation of these chemicals can lead to irritation in the lungs, headaches, dizziness, exhaustion and decreased productivity.

Limit the amount of chemicals in your home or office. Store chemicals outside the home or in the garage. Throw away old or unneeded chemicals safely.

Avoid using aerosol sprays. Aerosol cleaners, furniture polish and air fresheners suspend chemicals in the air that then enter your lungs.

Look for fragrance-free or naturally-scented products. Use mild cleaners that don't include artificial fragrances. There are plenty of effective natural cleaning products and fragrances.

Control Mold

Mold is all around us. But given the right conditions it can thrive indoors and create health hazards for occupants. Indoor relative humidity should be maintained at 30-50 percent. Use ventilation fans for bathrooms and kitchens. Ventilate crawlspaces to prevent the buildup of moisture. Wipe up any accumulated moisture. Clean up any visible mold growth and locate and eliminate the moisture source.

Carbon Monoxide

One of the most dangerous indoor air pollutants is Carbon Monoxide. It is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is the byproduct of incomplete combustion. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in high quantities, but can cause fatigue, headaches, confusion, nausea and dizziness in lower quantities.

Use fuel burning appliances correctly and ensure they are working properly. Do not use any gasoline-powered engines indoors, even for a short time. Ensure gasoline-powered engine exhaust doesn't enter the home or office. And use a Carbon Monoxide alarm.

So while your house or office is shut tight to keep warm this winter, consider the air quality. Eliminate sources of pollutants, get fresh air in when you can and add some houseplants to clean the air.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16