Improving Indoor Air Quality: Steps to take for year-round health and comfort

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Spring and allergy season are in the air, but outdoor conditions may not be the only reasons you're sniffling and sneezing. The EPA has named indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health, and also reports that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside.
Along with the comforts it offers you and your family, your home can be a safe

Spring and allergy season are in the air, but outdoor conditions may not be the only reasons you're sniffling and sneezing. The EPA has named indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health, and also reports that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside.

Along with the comforts it offers you and your family, your home can be a safe harbor and breeding ground for allergens and other air quality threats. But with a little extra care in everyday routines and the planning of home improvements, you can make a great difference in your abode?s year-round air quality.

Home improvements

  • Plan home improvements for temperate seasons of the year, when work and installation areas may be easily and comfortably ventilated.
  • When shopping for building materials, look for green options that have little or no off-gassing of VOCs (volatile organic compounds). There are also products that can prevent later development of air quality issues, such as paperless drywall that resists molds.
  • Whatever the content of the materials and furnishings you choose, plan on airing them out for a few days before bringing them inside.
  • If you?re planning on upgrading your home?s carpeting, ask the dealer to unroll and air out the new carpet for at least one day before it comes home. To cut down on dust during removal of the old carpet, vacuum it well before the installation crew arrives.
  • Consider installing a central vacuum system, highly recommended by allergists since the main air flow is typically exhausted outside the house, preventing the re-circulation of fine dust and allergens. Systems vented inside the home provide exceptionally high filtration, meeting all HEPA and ULPA specifications.
  • Augment your home?s HVAC system with a whole-house air cleaner and humidifier; the former traps and kills allergens and dangerous bacteria, and the latter maintains an environment beneficial to both your home?s structure and inhabitants.
  • Everyday living

  • Declare your home smoke-free.
  • If you have pets, keep them out of living areas and bedrooms.
  • Check cleaning products for toxic ingredients, and switch to nontoxic, nonaerosol replacements.
  • Trap dust and other air particles by vacuuming frequently with a unit incorporating a HEPA filter.
  • Check and change HVAC air filters regularly.
  • Keep all fuel-burning appliances in good order to eliminate carbon dioxide buildup, and install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Turn on the fan?in your bathroom remove water vapor, and over the kitchen stove to pull away harmful gases.
  • Clear away clutter, and do your best to minimize the quantity of fabric surfaces in your home; both are magnets for dust.
  • Air out dry-cleaned clothing before hanging it in your closet.
  • For further air quality assurance, purchase one of the many inexpensive and easy-to-use testing kits or monitors which can measure for radon, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, water vapor and more.
  • Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.

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