Healthy Air for a Healthy Home

Although most air pollution rules and regulations deal with outdoor air quality, our indoor air quality is typically 3-5 times worse. Since the average American spends between 80 and 90 percent of their time indoors, it is important to make the air that we breathe indoors as clean and safe as possible.

How can unhealthy air quality affect me?

Depending on what kind of pollutants you are exposed to and what their sources may be, the health effects may range anywhere from mild discomfort such as eye irritation, nose allergies, sore throat, rash and poor concentration, to more serious bodily harm such as asthma attacks, pneumonia, and lung cancer. Children and elderly people are particularly susceptible to problems relating to air pollution.

What are the sources of indoor air contaminants?

Indoor air contaminants can originate from within the house or be brought in from outside. Many of the products we use within the home can off-gas harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Watch out for these indoor air quality contaminant sources:

  • Toxic paint fumes
  • Asbestos
  • Bug spray, shoe polish, or any kind of chemical spray
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Mold and dust
  • Radon and carbon monoxide
  • Lead exposure

Contaminants can also be brought in from outside due to building system oversights:

  • Negative pressurization - too much air exhausted by fans, causing air to seep in through gaps in the floor, ceiling and walls
  • Inadequate duct sealing - bad connections in the duct system allow air in attic and crawlspace to be sucked into the home
  • Insufficient air sealing - allows outside contaminants such as car exhaust into the home

What Can You Do?

  • Choose building materials and furniture that have low or no VOCs. Visit www.greenseal.org or www.greenguard.org for a list of certified low VOC products

  • Investigate the products you use at home and use non-toxic products as much as possible. Visit Woman's Voices for the Environment Safe Cleaning Products Initiative for guidelines on choosing safer cleaners.

  • Hire an expert to test your home for building system oversights. Visit the California Building Performance Contractor's Association at http://www.cbpca.org/index.php/homeowners/participating-contractors/ for qualified contractors.

  • Properly ventilate to keep the home dry while cooking, and showering. Clean up mold inside your house. If untreated, mold can grow and eventually be inhaled.

  • Retrofit your fireplace with an EPA-recommended wood stove or fireplace insert, gas unit, or pellet stove. These steps can reduce particulate matter by 75-90% over a standard fireplace.