Health

5 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

We spend a lot of effort ensuring our kitchens, tables and sinks are clean – why isn’t air quality as important? Improving it is actually pretty easy.

1. MAKE A CLEAN SWEEP.

Carpet is a storage bank for dirt, dust and pollens. Use a vacuum cleaner with a strong suction, rotating brushes and a high-efficiency particulate absorption (HEPA) filter that should be washed regularly. But don’t stop there—steam-clean your carpets after thoroughly vacuuming for optimal results. Hardwood floor owners are not off the hook. Mop those floors using a microfiber dust cloth, which purportedly capture more dust and dirt than traditional fibers. And, believe it or not, simply placing a large floor mat in front of your door can stop a significant amount of debris from being tracked throughout the house.

2. IT’S ON NOW, PET DANDER!

Unbeknownst to Fluffy or Fido, pet dander consists of tiny—often microscopic—flecks of skin shed by any animals with fur or feathers. They stick to furniture, bedding, fabric and most items carried into and out of a building. In other words, even if you don’t own a pet, chances are there is pet dander in your home because pet owners accidentally transfer this airborne particle wherever they go. Pet owners should regularly bathe and groom their animals. When possible, brush pets in isolated areas of the home such as a patio, deck, driveway or garage. Make lint rollers your second best friend. Strips of duct tape work just as well, if not better.

3. MAINTAIN PROPER HUMIDITY LEVELS.

Too much moisture attracts bacteria, dust mites, mildew and mold. Not enough moisture can irritate your nasal passages and throat or cause dry skin and itchy eyes. The recommended humidity levels for the home range between 35 and 45 percent. If you have condensation on your windows and patio doors, mold spots on your ceiling or in the corners of walls, or a musty smell or odor that you can’t seem to get rid of, you need a dehumidifier. On the other hand, if you have dry, cracking furniture or too much static electricity in the home, you may not have enough moisture in the air and should use a humidifier. The best way to test humidity levels is with a hygrometer or humidistat, which are available at most hardware stores or big-box retailers.

4. USE NATURAL FRAGRANCES.

Sorry, scent junkies! Synthetic fragrances found in household cleaners, laundry products, grooming items and air fresheners release dozens of different chemicals into the air. A University of Washington study revealed that air fresheners were found to emit 20 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are labeled as toxic or hazardous under federal law. Consider switching to natural toiletries and household products. Use baking soda to absorb odors and lemon slices for a clean scent. NASA research shows that at least 15 houseplants, such as ferns, spider plants and aloe vera, act as living air purifiers. Their foliage and roots work in unison to absorb chemical pollutants.

5. DON’T SMOKE, DUMMY.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, at least 50 of which are known to cause cancer, according to the American Lung Association. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanides and ammonia are but a few of the toxins released in the air with every puff. There’s a reason why 28 states, including Kansas, have enacted statewide bans on smoking in enclosed public spaces as of June 2013.  Although Missouri technically doesn’t have one, its Indoor Clean Air Act of 1992 prohibits smoking in enclosed public spaces except for designated smoking areas, which may occupy no more than 30 percent of that place’s enclosed area.

Story by Kathryn Jones