Even in cities, the air inside the home is often more of a problem than the air outdoors. Sources are myriad: air fresheners you use to mask various odors, your shedding cat or dog, dusty furniture (and the aerosol spray you use to clean it), dust mites in bedding, a poorly ventilated kitchen range, and so on. Consider these easy steps to reduce indoor pollution:
Prevent problems. To discourage dust mites, encase your pillows, mattresses, and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash very dirty or dusty laundry in the hottest water.
Ventiliate. Cooking, cleaning, using hair spray, and polishing your nails can release volatile organic compounds that are linked to a variety of health problems. Use exhaust hoods or fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce your exposure and minimize humidity that can cause mold and mildew. Before you use your fireplace, make sure the flue damper is wide open. Poor ventilation can allow pollutants to stay in the air.
Ban smoking. Don't smoke or allow others to do so in your home or car.
Eliminate odors, don't mask them. Find the source of bad smells (a rotting potato in the cupboard? musty blankets? a pet accident?) and clean it up. Where appropriate, use a box of baking soda in the area instead of air fresheners, which cost more and can contain VOCs and phthalates.
Make your cleaning count. Because dust can harbor pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mites, mold, and mildew, dust furnishings regularly with a damp rag or an electrostatically charged duster. Vacuum often, ideally with a low-emissions vacuum.
Control critters. Seal cracks and crevices and put food away. You'll be less apt to attract pests and need to use pesticides. To minimize your exposure to pet dander, banish pets from sleeping areas and upholstered furniture.
Rethink pricey fixes. There's little medical evidence that an air cleaner alone can ease allergies and asthma; try low-cost solutions first. And there's no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems or that dirty ducts increase airborne particulates.
If you're considering an air purifier, check out our new report, buying advice, and Ratings (available to subscribers). For more on green cleaning and reducing indoor air pollution, visit GreenerChoices.org. We'd like to hear from you: How do you keep the air clean ad safe in your home?