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Easy ways to reduce indoor air pollution
Even in cities, the air inside the home is often more of a problem than the air outdoors. Winter, when many folks have no choice but to hunker down indoors, is a good time to become vigilant about reducing indoor air pollution.
Sources are myriad: the smoky fire in your fireplace, air fresheners you use to mask various odors, your shedding cat or dog, dusty furniture (and the aerosol spray you use to clean it), dust mites in bedding, a poorly ventilated kitchen range, and so on. For checks to perform, see Five New Year's resolutions for your house. But consider these easy steps, too:
To discourage dust mites, encase your pillows, mattresses, and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash very dirty or dusty laundry in the hottest water.
Cooking, cleaning, using hair spray, and polishing your nails can release volatile organic compounds that are linked to a variety of health problems. Use exhaust hoods or fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce your exposure and minimize humidity that can cause mold and mildew. Before you use your fireplace, make sure the flue damper is wide open. Poor ventilation can allow pollutants to stay in the air.
ELIMINATE ODORS, DON'T MASK THEM
Find the source of bad smells (a rotting potato in the cupboard? musty blankets? a pet accident?) and clean it up. Where appropriate, use a box of baking soda in the area instead of air fresheners, which cost more and can contain VOCs and phthalates.
MAKE YOUR CLEANING COUNT
Because dust can harbor pollen, pet dander, bacteria, mites, mold, and mildew, dust furnishings regularly with a damp rag or an electrostatically charged duster. Vacuum often, ideally with a low-emissions vacuum like the top-rated Hoover WindTunnel Anniversary Edition U6485-900, $230.
Don't smoke or allow others to do so in your home or car.
Seal cracks and crevices and put food away. You'll be less apt to attract pests and need to use pesticides. To minimize your exposure to pet dander, banish pets from sleeping areas and upholstered furniture.
RETHINK PRICEY FIXES
There's little medical evidence that an air cleaner alone can ease allergies and asthma; try low-cost solutions first. And there's no proof that cleaning ducts prevents health problems or that dirty ducts increase airborne particulates.
Listen to the CR podcast on indoor air 2/10
Hidden household chemicals 7/09
Home air quality: What you can do 5/09
Simple indoor-air-cleaning steps 10/07