Breathe Easier

Smog is bad, but indoor air pollution - which wreaks its havoc invisibly - is much worse. Luckily, you can take strides to improve the air quality within your home

Perhaps the only good thing to say about smog is that all that brown muck is visible to the naked eye, acting as a sobering reality check that air pollution is indeed a problem.

Smog's stealthier, sneakier and far more dangerous cousin is indoor air pollution — a menace that is pretty much invisible. Unfortunately, indoor air pollution is two to five times worse than the air quality outside.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, we are often unaware that we are polluting when we light a candle, clean the sink or freshen up our rooms with a new paint job. It's a problem worsened during the winter because we spend more time indoors, and keep doors and windows sealed up against the elements.

But there is some good news. Indoor air quality is — to some extent — within our control. There are easy ways to reduce unhealthy particles inside and make your home healthier.

Easy Fixes

  • Take a cue from Asian cultures, and leave shoes — which track in dust, pollen, and pesticides — at the door. Keep some indoor slippers by the door as a reminder.
  • Switch to soy or beeswax candles because the petroleum-based paraffin wax from regular candles produces toxic soot. And cut back on burning smoky incense.
  • Use green cleaning products, as traditional products use harsh chemicals that can leave you dizzy and nauseated, or give you a sore throat, among other ailments. Vinegar and baking powder are cheap and much healthier alternatives.
  • Run a fan when you're taking a shower to keep toxic mold from spreading.
  • Replace your vinyl shower liner with nylon or cotton, as vinyl has been shown to release pollutants.
  • Cut down on dry cleaning which emits carcinogenic solvents; or use an eco-friendly dry cleaning service.
  • Wash bedding weekly, and use allergen-proof mattresses and pillow covers to starve dust mites.

Next Steps

  • Use no or low VOC-paints, because traditional paint releases toxins for up to a year
  • Replace your carpets with hard surfaces, which don't harbor dust, pollen, animal dander or other allergens.
  • If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, get the chimney swept on a regular basis.
  • Opt for solid wood furniture when possible, because furniture made from MDF and particle-board can contain formaldehyde.

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