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Indoor Air Quality – 10 Ways to Control Contaminants at Their Source

May 14, 2009

We spend most of our lives indoors, and the majority of that indoor time in our homes.  The concern for energy conservation has lead to houses that do a much better job at keeping the cold outside air out.  This has done wonders for the energy efficiency of our homes, but has lead to one unfortunate consequence: poor indoor air quality.  In old leaky homes, any contaminants inside the house would typically be blown right back out of the house, but in newer homes they can easily become trapped inside.


Some of these contaminants can lead to increased short term allergic type reactions and symptoms like irritated eyes, nose and throat, dizziness and fatigue.  These short term reactions are typically not serious health concerns, but some indoor air contaminants have been linked to long term and serious conditions such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer.  It is difficult to pinpoint what level of exposure to these contaminants is potentially dangerous, and it also seems to vary from person to person.  However, whether you suffer from short term reactions or are concerned about the potential dangers of long term exposure here are ten ways to control indoor air contaminants at their source:shoes

  1. Leave your shoes at the door:  The soles of your shoes can track numerous types of contaminants into your house like tar, dirt, feces, sticks, leaves, road salt, oil, and numerous types of chemicals found on our streets, sidewalks, parking lots and driveways.
  2. Chemical free cleaning:  Eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from your house and improve the indoor air quality by switching to natural, organic cleaners and/or cleaning cloths made of mirafibers which only require water to clean just about anything.  These incredible cleaning cloths will also help you save on paper towels too.
  3. Purchase formaldehyde free and low VOC (volatile organic compound) products:  Many building products have traditionally been made with chemicals that have been shown to produce negative effects in some people.  These include fiberglass batt insulation, engineered wood products like plywood and particle board, paints, adhesives, varnishes, polyurethane, and carpeting.smoke
  4. Quit smoking or smoke outside:  Second hand smoke is a proven carcinogen, not to mention the foul odor that it leaves behind.
  5. Provide adequate exhaust for combustion sources:  Stoves, ovens, furnaces, fireplaces and kerosene heaters that are improperly vented can introduce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide gas into your house.  Carbon monoxide is poisonous, and especially dangerous since it is colorless and odorless.
  6. Contain the mess or take it outside:  Many hobbies and home improvement activities like soldering, gluing, woodworking, sawing, furniture refinishing and sanding can create a huge mess and that mess can quickly spread throughout your house.  Several ways to minimize this are to turn off your furnace while you are working, clean up as soon as you are finished, install an automatic vacuum system in your wood shop, or simply do the project outside.ants
  7. Keep the pests under control:  A clean house that is well sealed to the elements will also keep pests like ants, cockroaches, mice, and other vermin from coming into your house, bringing various contaminants along with them.  Properly storing dry goods in sealed containers will also help to keep the pests away.
  8. Moisture control and mold prevention:  Mold will thrive in warm, moist environments wherever there is a “food” source like paper, wood, or other organic material.  Keep a watchful eye out for any water leaks indoors and out, and fix any problems immediately.
  9. Weatherize your home:  Sealing all of the cracks and holes on the outside of your house will also keep many pollutants from ever coming into your house.
  10. Keep the beach and the pool outside:  The chlorine laden pool water in your suits and towels should stay outside along with the sand form the beach.  Line dry your suits and towels outside and then toss them in the washer as soon as possible.

The first step to improving the quality of the air in your house is to stop the contaminants at their source.  Following these ten steps will help you keep the inside of your house cleaner, limit your exposure to potentially harmful substances and can even improve your health.  Keep these pollutants under control and breathe easy.

Dan Bossenbroek

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