7 Unexpected Indoor Air Villains
Spring is in the air! So are the indoor air pollutants
When it comes to poor indoor air quality, some of the worst offenders may not be ones you'd expect. In fact, a few of them can be quite charming! But their effects can seem criminal. This spring, to help keep your indoor air cleaner, crack down on these indoor air offenders:
1. Candles. A small percentage of candles manufactured outside the U.S. contain wicks with a lead core. When the wick is burned, a level of lead may become airborne. Choose candles with cotton or hemp wicks.
2. Incense. When you light a stick of incense, the smoke can waft carbon monoxide and benzene into the air. Essential oils can be a great alternative to incense.
3. Dry cleaning chemicals. Spring is a great time to dry clean winter coats for storage, and have warm-weather clothes spruced up, too. But, perchloroethylene, the chemical most widely used in dry cleaning, can become airborne. To help minimize your exposure, let freshly cleaned garments "off gas" in a porch or garage before bringing them indoors. You can also seek out companies that use "green," gentler chemical treatments.
4. Humidifiers/dehumidifiers and heating/cooling systems. High humidity can create a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and mildew growth. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), central heating/cooling systems and humidifiers may not only host these hazards, they can also blow them into your indoor air. To help prevent these particles from circulating, the EPA recommends emptying and cleaning water trays at least every other day. And change high performance air filters at least every three months.
5. New cabinets and carpets. Planning a spring home improvement project? Know that pressed-wood furniture and synthetic carpeting can contain formaldehyde, a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. Ask about the formaldehyde content before you buy and try to avoid those that contain high levels.
6. Space heaters, stoves and other gas appliances. Help prevent carbon monoxide exposure by keeping gas appliances properly adjusted and vented. Have your central heating system professionally inspected and cleaned annually. And never idle your car inside an attached garage.
7. Air fresheners & room sprays. Their purpose is to mask unpleasant odors. But room sprays may be adding more than mere scent to your indoor air. Methylene chloride is a common component. Skip the spray cans and use essential oils to scent the air instead.
These tips can help you keep your indoor air cleaner. But no matter how careful you are, airborne particles will still circulate inside your home. To keep these airborne particles to a minimum, use a Filtrete air purifier.
EPA Guide to Indoor Air Quality
EPA Intro to Indoor Air Quality
EPA Report on Candles and Incense
Environment, Health and Safety Online