How to maintain good indoor air quality

Good indoor air quality (IAQ) is essential to your family’s health. Especially if your health has been affected by mold.

The air inside your home should be as clean as possible. But more often than not, the air we breathe indoors is usually more polluted than outdoor air.

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that indoor air quality affects the health of over 85% of Americans, and that indoor air pollution can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air.

This is because indoor air contains pollutants generated by our activities, such as cooking, cleaning, dust, chemical contaminants, pet dander, and mold spores.

They can also cause serious health problems such as allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and other diseases like COPD and lung cancer. According to the EPA:

“Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.”

The four most common approaches to reducing indoor air pollution, in order of effectiveness, are:

Source Control: Eliminate or control the sources of pollution.

Ventilation: Dilute and exhaust pollutants through outdoor air ventilation, windows and doors.

Air Cleaning: Remove pollutants through proven air cleaning methods.

Clean home – Maintain a clean and dust-free environment.

Of the four, the first approach — source control — is the most effective. This involves removing source pollutants like chemicals, dust, and all mold caused by excessive moisture from high humidity, plumbing leaks, or flooding.

Thoroughly clean and dry water-damaged carpets and building materials or have them removed within 24 hours. If there are any signs of mold or mildew, it’s important to clean up the affected area immediately.

By controlling the relative humidity level in a home, the growth of mold can be minimized. A relative humidity of 30-50 percent is generally recommended for most homes. To control humidity, you can install a dehumidifier or use fans to circulate air through your home. This will maintain comfortable humidity levels while keeping condensation from forming on windows and walls.

Avoid cooking with oil whenever possible because it produces smoke that can affect the air quality in your home. If you do use oil while cooking, make sure you use your stove vent, and open a window.

Minimize the use of products and materials that have harmful chemicals.

If possible, don’t use deodorant sprays or other personal care products inside your home because the chemicals from these products can cause irritation in the nose and throat if inhaled over time (especially if you have asthma).

Use only low- or no-VOC paint, varnish, adhesives and sealants. Aged or poorly ventilated paint can release VOCs into the air. When buying new paints, sealants, and adhesives, look for low- or no-VOC products labeled with a “Green Seal” or “GreenGuard” certification mark.

The second approach — outdoor air ventilation — is also effective and commonly employed.

Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home.

Ventilation methods include installing an exhaust fan close to the source of contaminants, increasing outdoor air flows in mechanical ventilation systems, and opening windows, especially when pollutant sources are in use.

Make sure that there is adequate ventilation in bathrooms and kitchens where moisture creates mold growth on surfaces like grout between tiles or walls, bathtubs or showers, windowsills, doorsills or window frames. Use exhaust fans over stovetops when cooking and open windows when showering or bathing to prevent excess moisture from building up in these areas

Keep vents unblocked and clear of debris so that they can work properly.

The third approach — air cleaning — is not generally regarded as sufficient in itself, but is sometimes used to supplement source control and ventilation.

Air filters are an important part of maintaining good indoor air quality because they help to remove dust particles from the air so that they do not become lodged in your lungs. The three main types of filters are HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters, electrostatic precipitators and filter bags.

A HEPA filter removes 99% of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns or larger from the air passing through them. Electrostatic precipitators use an electric charge to attract dust particles from the airstream passing through them, while filter bags contain a disposable filter material that traps dust as it passes through it

Use only HEPA filters on air conditioners or other devices that produce indoor air pollution (like gas stoves). These filters catch particles too tiny for our eyes to see but still large enough to cause problems.

The fourth approach – Keep your home clean –

Dust and dirt build up on surfaces in your home every day. You may not be able to see it, but it can make your home feel dirty and unhealthy. Regularly dusting surfaces with a damp cloth will help remove dust particles from around your home.

Use natural cleaning products. These products are less likely to contain chemicals that harm indoor air quality.

Vacuum your floors regularly to remove dust mites, pollen, pet dander and other allergens from your home. When vacuuming use a HEPA vacuum cleaner or a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter to capture small particles in the air before they can become airborne again.

Also, clean your furniture weekly to remove dust mites and other allergens. Dust blinds and drapes monthly with a soft-bristle brush or cloth.

Clean your HVAC system once a year by hiring a professional company to do this for you or following the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning yourself if you have a smaller unit that doesn’t require professional maintenance.

Clean filters regularly. You should change your heating or cooling system filters at least every three months during periods of peak use and once a month during low-use periods such as winter months when windows are closed and heating systems are used more frequently.

Pets are wonderful companions but also present some challenges for indoor air quality because they shed fur and dander all over the house. If you must keep pets inside, regularly groom them with a lint roller and frequent baths. You should also vacuum more.

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