Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Cleaning Up the Air in Your Home: You Know Outdoor Pollution Is Bad, but the Indoor Variety Can Be Just as Hard on Your Lungs. These Expert Tactics Will Help You Breathe Easier Today

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

Cleaning Up the Air in Your Home: You Know Outdoor Pollution Is Bad, but the Indoor Variety Can Be Just as Hard on Your Lungs. These Expert Tactics Will Help You Breathe Easier Today

Article excerpt

You exercise, eat right, slather on sunscreen, and don't smoke to be as healthy as possible--yet you spend a large part of each day in an environment that could be distinctly unhealthy: your home. "Concentrations of many air pollutants are usually two to five times higher indoors than outdoors," says John Girman, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) indoor-air science adviser. Everything from pillowcases to candles to your shower habits can affect what--and how well--you breathe in your home. Fortunately, there are simple ways to clean up the air around you. And many of these strategies, such as switching household cleansers and choosing sustainably harvested solidwood floors, are not only good for your health, they're also better for the environment.

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14 WAYS TO BE HEALTHIER AT HOME

These little changes can add up to a big improvement in your air.

1. LEAVE YOUR SHOES AT THE DOOR. Your comfy sneakers track in dirt, pollen, and pesticides. What better excuse to buy a cute new pair of slippers?

2. FIND A GOOD CHIMNEY SWEEP. Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and gas or oil furnaces, boilers, and water heaters can all emit carbon monoxide (CO). At low levels, CO--an odorless gas--may cause flu-like symptoms, but higher concentrations can be lethal. A chimney sweep or heating contractor will inspect your fireplace, furnace and other appliances to make sure they're clean and operating correctly. To find a professional, check your phone book, call your power company, or go to csia.org.

a. STARVE DUST MITES. Everyone has these microscopic pests that can aggravate allergies and asthma, but you can minimize their presence by being a poor host. Since mites feed on dead skin cells, cut off their food supply: Wash your bedding in hot water at least once a week, and zip up your

mattress and pillows in allergen-proof covers, which prevent skin cells from settling deep into your bedding and attracting the little critters. We like Lifekind's cotton dust mite-barrier pillow and mattress covers (lifekind.com). Keeping humidity levels in your home below 50 percent will help mitigate a mite problem, too.

4. RUN A FAN WHILE TAKING A SHOWER. Excessive moisture and humidity create a breeding ground for mold, which can cause rashes and hay fever-like symptoms. And all the scrubbing in the world won't help if you don't have adequate ventilation. Give humidity the heave-ho by running a ceiling-mounted exhaust fan, or open a window while you take a bath or shower and leave it open for about 10 minutes afterward. Fix leaks pronto, and if you have a mold problem that won't go away, consider hiring a mold remediation contractor to safely clean it up (find one at iaqa.org).

5. USE MORE NATURAL CLEANING PRODUCTS.

Traditional cleansers often contain harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach and ethylene glycol, which release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause headaches, nausea, and nose and throat ilTitation. A warning to use the products in a well-ventilated area or to avoid contact with skin is a tip-off.

6. SWITCH TO SOY OR BEESWAX CANDLES. These renewable resources burn cleaner and produce less soot than those made from petroleum-based paraffin wax. Look for cotton wicks, not metal, and avoid lighting incense, which can release unhealthy amounts of particulate matter (a mix of extremely small particles and liquid droplets) that can irritate your respiratory tract and skin.

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7. GET SOME FRESH AIR. Opening your windows will help reduce build-up of contaminants like VOCs, smoke, dust, and dander. On summer days, when outdoor air pollution can be high (check levels in your area at airnow. gov/index), run your air conditioner to increase airflow, filter out some pollutants, and reduce humidity.

8. BAN SMOKING. …

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