Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes
American Profile recently interviewed Michael Vogel, director of the Montana chapter of Healthy Indoor Air for American’s Homes. He has been offering indoor air quality advice for over 20 years.
Vogel points out that “Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article on the importance of fresh air and ventilation back in the 1800s” – but today, experts know much more about the risks of various pollutants.
Here’s a rundown of common air pollutants in American homes:
Radon – The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one out of 15 homes contain dangerous levels a radon, a colorless, odorless gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer (after smoking). Install a radon alarm to alert you when the gas reaches harmful levels indoors.
Carbon Monoxide – Another colorless, odorless gas, carbon monoxide often gets into the air from gas furnaces, fireplaces, and wood and coal stoves. Symptoms over carbon monoxide poisoning include nausea, sleepiness, and confusion. Get a carbon monoxide detector to protect your family this invisible gas.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – If you’ve ever smelled new carpet, then you’re familiar with the odor of VOCs. They’re also present in paint, furniture, and plastic, and they easily escape into the air. Formaldehyde is a common VOC that can lead to difficulty breathing, coughing, rashes, and irritation of the eye, nose, and throat. Buy low-VOC or VOC-free products when possible, and make sure rooms are well-ventilated. Air cleaners work wonders for indoor air quality; choose an air cleaner with a VOC filter to eliminate these dangerous gases from the air.
Second-hand Smoke – Exposure to second-hand smoke has been linked to asthma, ear infections, sinus infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Don’t smoke inside! If you cannot avoid the smoke, get a smoke eater air purifier.
Dust and allergens – These microscopic particles trigger allergy and asthma attacks. Keep windows closed when pollen counts are high, and vacuum regularly with a HEPA vacuum. Dust mite covers for your mattress and pillows will keep you allergy-free at night.