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A Guide to Indoor Air Pollution – How to Avoid it in Your Home

Everyone knows that air pollution is a major concern, but did you know that the air inside your home or work place could be more polluted than outside? With the average person spending as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, indoor air pollution can be even deadlier than outdoor air pollution. Couple that with the fact that most people who are exposed to indoor air pollution for extended periods of time are the people who are most susceptible to its effects (children, the elderly, and people who suffer from chronic respiratory problems) and you have a potentially deadly combination.

The biggest factors of indoor air pollution are gas and particle releasing products and inadequate ventilation. Things such as flammable products (i.e. gas, oil, kerosene, and coal), radon, tobacco use, asbestos, wet carpet, heating and cooling systems, air fresheners, and more contribute to indoor air pollution as well. Inadequate ventilation means that outside air is not entering your home frequently enough to replace indoor air, further complicating the problem as the toxins have no where to go and can stay stagnant in the air for an extended period of time.

The effects of indoor air pollution can be immediate or can take years to present themselves. Immediate effects are usually short term and treatable and include such symptoms as dizziness, headaches; irritation of the nose, throat, eyes, and skin; and cold or flu like symptoms. Long term effects can be deadly and include heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases. It is imminent that you investigate such symptoms to determine if they are being caused by indoor air pollution so you can treat them as soon as possible to avoid long term complications.

You should be aware of the amount of indoor air pollution you have and the sources (or potential sources) that are contributing to it to minimize the effects and levels of pollution. Making sure your home is properly ventilated and ridding your home of polluting products are both equally important steps to take in order to achieve low levels of indoor pollution. Always inspect your ventilation systems for problems, cleanliness, and operability on a regularly scheduled basis. Signs of improper ventilation include stuffy air, dirty central heating and cooling equipment, and condensation on windows and walls. Ridding your home of pollutants can be a more daunting task. Taking notice to your habits and activities is essential to identifying possible pollutants; which may be a considerable cause of your indoor air pollution.

Measuring the level of radon in your home is another important step to achieving low levels of indoor air pollution. Radon is colorless and odorless so you will not be able to measure its quantity on your own; you will need a special device used to measure it. Most devices are inexpensive and the EPA can provide you with information on the risks and effects of varying levels of radon exposure, and how to reduce them.

Since most heating and cooling systems do not mechanically bring in outside air and most homes are constructed to let in as little air as possible, it is important to leave windows and doors open and let your house “air out” frequently. This can significantly decrease the amount of pollution indoors. You can also achieve similar results by using window air conditioners with the vent control open and using exhaust fans that vent outside (i.e. kitchen and bathroom fans).

Activities involving high polluting products should be carried out outdoors whenever possible. This would include activities that involve paint thinner, spray paint, kerosene, welding, sanding, and so forth. Proper ventilation is a must when these activities can not be performed outdoors (or for activities such as painting indoors); no matter how short of a period you will be exposed to them.

Air cleaners can be an extremely effect method of reducing indoor air pollution when coupled with the minimization of polluting products, provided that you purchase the correct one. Two things to take into consideration when choosing an air cleaner are its efficiency rate (or how well it collects pollutants) and its air circulation rate (or the amount of air collected through the filter per minute). Each is as important as the other and one that has one high number while the other factor remains low will not be effective. It should also be noted that the effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on the strength of the pollutant and the proper care and maintenance of the product as well.

Reducing indoor air pollution may seem like a large and overwhelming process but incorporating good habits into your everyday life is really the key. Once you get into the pattern of protecting yourself from this potential silent killer you will wonder what took you so long.

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