Make sure your home is lung-friendly. Learn how common household items can make indoor air unhealthy, and what you can do to improve the air in your home.
Could the air in my house be unhealthy?
Household chemicals, fumes, dust, mold, and allergens can be present without your knowing it. Breathing this polluted air raises your risk for infections and COPD flare-ups. Unhealthy indoor air also may cause headaches, dizziness, dry eyes, nasal congestion, and a burning feeling in the nose or throat.
What pollutes indoor air?
Look around you. Harmful chemicals and gases may come from many sources. These include gas-burning stoves and furnaces, cleaning products, varnishes, waxes, paints, air fresheners, scents from candles and grooming products, and pesticides. Particleboard, other building materials, and new carpets also give off fumes. So do aerosol hair sprays and dry-cleaned clothing. Dust, mold, mildew, and pet dander are other troublemakers. In some people, they trigger allergies and asthma. That makes breathing problems worse.
What about secondhand smoke?
Tobacco smoke is a major cause of dirty indoor air. It is a concern even if you are not the person who is smoking. The International Journal of COPD reports that people with COPD who are exposed to secondhand smoke have poorer health, more emergency room visits, and more hospital stays. So set a “no smoking” rule in your home.
How can I improve the air in my home?
The American Lung Association recommends keeping harmful chemicals out of your home. Don’t use or store aerosol products, plug-in room fresheners, paints, and solvents such as varnish and turpentine inside. When cleaning, avoid ammonia, bleach, and petroleum-based products. Use natural products instead. For an all-purpose natural cleaner, mix one-half cup white vinegar, one-fourth cup baking soda, and one-half gallon water. Make sure gas-burning appliances and furnaces are properly vented. Use an exhaust fan or open windows when cooking.
To cut down on dust, regularly clean ducts and replace filters in central heating and air conditioning systems. Ward off mold by using fans vented to the outdoors in bathrooms and kitchens.
A breath of fresh air helps, too, so open windows when the weather permits. Air cleaning devices that use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters can also help remove pollutants. Avoid air cleaners that use ozone or deionizers to work.
Get a free guide to reducing indoor air pollution from the Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/iaq/pdfs/careforyourair.pdf.