Strategies Recommended By the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
When the dangers associated with indoor air pollution are considered, the importance of keeping the air in your home as pure as possible becomes obvious. Fortunately, there are a few relatively easy steps that you can take which will result in a noticeable improvement in your home’s air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a three-prong method of reducing indoor air pollution: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners. Let us look at each of these three methods in turn.
1 – Source Control
Sometimes the best way to deal with pollution is to cut it off at the source. Some sources are fairly easy to reduce or eliminate.
Perhaps the quintessential example of source control is cutting down on environmental tobacco smoke, also known as “second-hand smoke.” If you do not want to quit smoking, you can still decide to only smoke outside, and to ask those you live with and your guests to do the same. That way, you are not continuously inhaling the unhealthy by-products of smoking.
Here are some other methods of source control:
- Have your air tested for radon, which, after smoking, is the leading cause of lung cancer. If it turns out you have a radon problem, address it as soon as possible.
- Fight mold, mildew, and pollution-causing pests such as cockroaches and dust mites by keeping the humidity of your home low. It is also import to keep your living space clean so that it is less attractive to bugs. If you do have pests, try eliminating them using non-chemical means rather than sprays.
- Make sure that furnaces, chimneys, and other heating systems are running cleanly and efficiently.
- When cleaning, check for any warnings on the label. If it says not to use the product in an enclosed space, don’t do so. Buy only the quantities you need so that you do not have unnecessary and unhealthy chemicals sitting around your home.
- Use furniture made of solid wood, rather than pressed wood, which can release formaldehyde into the air.
2 – Improved Ventilation
Throw open the windows the next time there is good weather.
Sometimes you will need to immediately increase ventilation. We mentioned above, for instance, that it is preferable to use non-chemical means to combat household pests. However, if you do need to use insect spray, immediately open the nearest window and turn on the fan if at all possible, so that the unhealthy fumes do not stay in your house. The same goes for other chemicals, like cleaning fluids.
3 – Air Purifiers
Effectiveness of Air Cleaners
The effectiveness of air purifiers vary from model to model. Both the EPA and the USCPS say that the value of a filter should be measured based on two factors:
- How much air it is capable of drawing through the filtration system.
Efficiency is usually measured as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more unwanted material the filter pulls from the air that goes through it. The second factor, airflow rate, is measured in cubic feet per minute. This is probably the more important factor to remember, because while it is obvious that the higher the efficiency, the better, the smart buyer will consider his or her needs when it comes to airflow rate. The air volume of a room can be measured by multiplying three numbers: the length and width of the floor and the height of the ceiling.
Air filters, like source control and improved ventilation, are not cure-alls, nor are they an excuse to avoid taking other measures to purify the air of your home as described above. The filters used in homes are usually those that focus on removing particles from the air. Other types of filters exist, but are not nearly as common. Ozone-generating air cleaners are also available on the market, but are not recommended, as ozone itself is a health hazard. Standard particle-removing air filters are most effective against small particles. Larger particles tend to stay in the air for shorter periods of time before settling onto the floor or some other surface. They may be stirred up again by human activity, but gravity will soon pull them down once more. Therefore, air filters are less capable of ridding them from your home than smaller particles.
Please note also that air filters are currently not recommended by the EPA to control radon or its decay products, though more research is being planned in this area.
Despite these caveats, however, air filters can work wonders for indoor air quality, and can leave your home significantly cleaner than it was without one, no matter what other steps you take. Air filters are therefore an important component in improving the air quality of your house or apartment.
Sources referred to in this article:
- American Cancer Society. “Secondhand Smoke.” http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/TobaccoCancer/secondhand-smoke
- United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. “Improving Air Quality in Your Home: Three Basic Strategies.” http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/450.html#Improve5
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Improving Indoor Air Quality.” http://www.epa.gov/iaq/is-imprv.html
- —. “Indoor Air Quality.” http://www.epa.gov/iaq/is-apart.html
- —. “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality.” http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/insidest.html