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Breathe Easier in Your Home
The most important housecleaning task may be cleaning the stuff you don’t see: air pollution. Indoor air toxins come in the form of exhaust fumes from attached garages, unburned hydrocarbons (like free radicals, created from cooking foods with oil), formaldehyde from particleboard cabinets and furniture, and perchloroethylene from dry cleaning. Not to mention everyday irritants like smoke particles, pollen and pet dander. When these get trapped in our often-airtight homes, they become more than minor nuisances.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental health risks — a risk exacerbated by the fact that Americans spend 95 percent of their day indoors and in cars, says University of Texas indoor air quality researcher Richard Corsi.
And, he adds, “What’s been shown in this country and in other countries is that the levels of most air pollutants that we heavily regulate outdoors are often higher indoors.”
There’s a clean air act for outdoor air, but what about the air you breathe the majority of the day? It’s time you passed a clean indoor air act for your family.
What kind of air filter is best for you?
A study published in the February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that using High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters for just two days removed 60 percent of air particles and improved cardiovascular health in non-smoking adults.
Also, add electric air purifiers to the rooms you live in most. Purifiers use a combination of filtration technology, including activated carbon, HEPA and UV, to remove pollutants from the air. What type of filtration should you look for? The following chart can help you find the right purifier(s) for your home. Note that many air purifiers use a combination of these technologies for superior pollution protection.
|Type of filtration||Removes||How it works||Important note|
|Activated Carbon||VOCs||Porous charcoal traps gases and odors between carbon atoms.||When pores get full, activated carbon needs to be replaced to be effective.|
|HEPA||Dander, fungi, mold, pollen, smoke||Synthetic filter can remove at least 99.97% of airborne particles 0.3 micrometers (µm) in diameter.||A Danish study found HEPA filters improve cardiovascular health.|
|Ion Generator/Electrostatic||Bacteria, dander, smoke||Particles obtain an electric charge that attach to a surface and are removed from the air.||Be sure to choose a filter that does not create ozone as a by-product.|
|UV Light||Bacteria||Energy breaks down molecular bonds, destroying micro-organisms.||Can decrease the number of colds spread in your home since UV destroys airborne viruses.|
|Zeolite||VOCs||A volcanic rock that traps gases and odors — similar to activated carbon.||No filters to replace — simply recharge in direct sunlight to release absorbed pollutants.|
|Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO)||VOCs, bacteria, mold||Combines shortwave UV light and ion generation to sterilize 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.||Requires very little maintenance.|
8 more simple ways to clear the air
- Turn on your extraction fan when cooking, especially with gas stoves.
- Ventilate an attached garage. Set up an exhaust fan wired to the garage door on a timer, so it turns on when the door opens.
- Periodically open your windows. Newer homes are especially airtight — good for your heating or AC bill, bad for your health. Opening your windows at regular intervals, even in the winter, can improve air circulation.
- Eliminate particleboard and use VOC-free paint if you are building or remodeling. Particleboard off-gases formaldehyde, which is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Volatile organic compounds do little to improve the performance of paint and may cause cancer in humans, according to the EPA.
- Clean green. Chemicals in traditional household cleaning products contribute to the level of VOCs in your home. Switch to natural green cleaners, and put vinegar and baking soda to use instead.
- Air out dry cleaning. Hang your dry cleaning in the garage overnight to release harmful fumes before putting the clothes in your closet. Or use green dry cleaning methods, such as liquid carbon dioxide.
- Get help from nature. According to a study by NASA, plants can help filter out toxins in the air. Even at their low rate of filtration, plants are a positive step toward “greener” air. Those with the best filtration potential include spider plants, peace lilies and bamboo palms.
- Leave your shoes at the door. Carpet fibers trap pesticides that you may track in from the outside.