Your home is your castle. A safe haven sheltered from the worries of the outside world. Or is it?
It turns out that our homes (and many other buildings) are major sources of indoor air pollution — much of which is hazardous to your health.
Indoor air pollution has increased during the last couple of decades, partly because of our energy consciousness. We seal up our homes and offices tightly against the heat and cold. In addition, the products, furnishings and construction materials we use today are much more likely to discharge toxic substances into the air.
What Are the Pollutants?
Some of these substances are no mystery. We know what harm carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, radon and asbestos can do. Others indoor pollutants are substances that are new or whose effects are less well-known. Hundreds of chemicals commonly found in the home may harm humans in ways we do not yet understand. We also do not know exactly what happens when some of these chemicals combine and form new substances in an enclosed environment.
The dismal results of this increasing problem include cancer, asthma, poisoning, (such as lead and pesticide poisoning), viral and bacterial infections, allergies, headaches and a host of other mental and physical ailments.
Don’t Leave Civilization Just Yet
Before you pack up and move into a tent, there are plenty of things you can do to improve air quality inside your home. Many of these things can be done relatively cheaply, although they may take considerable time and effort.
You should also be aware that some of the everyday household products you use may be contributing to the problem. Look for less toxic products. When you must use things like pesticides and solvents, read the label carefully, use exactly as directed and try to air out your home afterward.
The first step toward improving indoor air quality is detecting pollution problems and finding their source. You may find that the solutions are as simple as increasing ventilation, properly venting your stove, having your furnace serviced or your ducts cleaned. Some solutions will be more complex.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a wealth of information available on its Indoor Air Quality Web site. The EPA offers brochures and publications that you can get online or order by mail. The site also has links to numerous other sites addressing the topic of indoor air pollution. For more information, visit the EPA IAQ Web site.