Simple, Cost-Friendly Ways To Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

The DC Ladies: "Green" Living- How to improve your homes air qualityphoto credit: Jude Doyland

Have you given much thought to the quality of air you are breathing in your home?  People spend the majority of their time in their home and according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air inside buildings and homes can be more polluted than outside air.  There are immediate effects (ie watery eyes, dizziness) of indoor air pollution as well as long term effects (ie respiratory disease, cancer), that may not be experienced until years after the exposure.

There are some simple, cost effective ways to improve your indoor air quality in your home.  Of course, there are more serious issues such as mold and radon that will need professional assistance, but I would like to give you some simple ideas on making your indoor air quality better.

Remove Your Shoes

The easiest, cheapest way to start to improve your air quality is to remove your shoes as soon as you enter your home.  Not only will your floors stay cleaner, but you will track in less dangerous toxins such as pesticides.  This is especially important if you have small children in the house as they are more likely to play on the floor and thus will be more likely to be exposed to toxins tracked in.  Don’t forget about your pets as well – if you can, try to wipe your dog’s paws before they come in the house.

Do Not Use Air Fresheners

Time magazine reported on research that was done on different air fragrances.  The researchers found that almost all of them had phthalates, which have been found to disrupt the endocrine system.  To naturally freshen your air, try to open your windows for a couple of minutes each day.  You can also use essential oils or other natural items to freshen your home.  We boil water with cinnamon and a few other spices to give the house a naturally nice smell.

Use House Plants

Another natural way to improve the air quality in your house is to have indoor plants.  NASA studied houseplants to determine which were better at removing toxins from the air and found 15 that are good at removing absorb some toxic chemicals from the air.

Here is the list of those plants:

English ivy

Spider plant

Golden pothos

Peace lily

Chinese evergreen

Bamboo or Reed palm

Snake Plant

Heartleaf Philodendron

Selloum Philodendron

Elephant ear Philodendron

Red-edged Dracaena

Cornstalk Dracaena

Janet Craig Dracaena

Warneck Dracaena

Weeping Fig

Use Low or Non VOC Paint

If you are going to paint, buy paint that is either low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) or better yet, do not contain them at all.  VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Studies have found that levels of these VOC’s can be 2 to 5 times higher in homes or buildings than outside.  Also think about paint containers you may have sitting in your home unused.  If you are not going to use them soon, think about disposing them according to safety recommendations if your community.  Gases can leak out of the containers even though they are closed.

Do the Smell Test

In general, items that have very strong smells are emitting some sort of chemical.  Try not to have them in your house.  A study was done on vinyl shower curtains by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) and they found that the shower curtains were emitting toxic chemicals in the air.  If you do buy something with a very strong smell, like a new mattress or shower curtain, try to air it out somewhere before anyone needs to be exposed to it for awhile.

With some simple steps, you can begin to improve your indoor air quality and have a healthier home for your whole family!

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The DC Ladies are a fabulous group of women from the Washington DC Metro Area who have each had a passion for writing with a specialty background. If you are looking for a former DC Ladies Contributor look for their name in the tags or search box. We have had many wonderful contributors since our first post in November of 2009!
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