After a long day, there’s nothing like taking a deep breath and relaxing at home. But don’t get too comfortable. That air you’re breathing might be making you sick.
We face countless pollutants each day, and some of the worst can be in our home environments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports indoor air often has more pollution than outdoor air, even in populated cities. And because many of us spend the majority of our days indoors, that can pose some serious health hazards.
So what can you do to make your indoor air cleaner? Here are five simple and inexpensive ways to reduce indoor toxins and breathe a little easier in your home.
1. Plant some houseplants
Plants are nature’s air filter. And despite mixed research on their effectiveness of reducing indoor air pollution, one thing is for sure: It can’t hurt to bring some greenery into your space.
According to Healthline, plants remove toxins either by trapping them in their tissue or breaking them down into benign byproducts. It’s ideal to have one potted plant per 100 square feet indoors. That might not be enough to totally clear the air of toxins, but it will provide some mild air-scrubbing effects.
Besides reducing toxins, indoor plants also can help make you an overall healthier person. For one, the humidity plants release boosts our ability to fight allergies and infections. Plus, research has shown being around plants makes people calmer, more focused and generally happier.
2. Invest in an air purifier
There are many shapes and sizes of indoor air purifiers. And unless you have a health issue that necessitates an industrial-sized unit, you likely can reap some benefits from the cheaper, portable purifiers.
The devices work to remove particle and gaseous pollutants in the air, though they have their limitations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For instance, purifiers with mechanical filters are good at capturing airborne particles; however, larger particles tend to settle in the environment before the filter can pick them up. Thus, using an air purifier should put a dent in your home’s pollutants, but it likely won’t be enough for completely healthy air.
3. Increase ventilation
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Opening a window for some “fresh air” is a pretty appropriate description. Building materials, furniture, cleaning products and moisture are just a few sources of indoor air pollution. And your home needs a way for those to vent out before they accumulate to dangerous levels.
According to the World Health Organization, improving ventilation has been estimated to reduce lung-related illnesses by up to 20 percent. Increasing ventilation also promotes moisture control, which helps to hinder mold growth, according to the CDC. So open your doors and windows whenever possible, and use outdoor-venting fans to maintain a healthy air flow.
4. Limit off-gassing
You spend months picking out a new couch. You get it home, position it exactly where you want it, sit down and take a breath. What’s that smell? Toxic compounds.
Many new products we bring into our homes — including furniture, carpets and construction materials — contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. And those VOCs tend to evaporate, or off-gas, into the air, sometimes over the course of years. Pressed-wood products are major off-gassing offenders, often containing formaldehyde among other chemicals. According to the EPA, formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, as well as cancer.
To combat off-gassing, limit the products you buy with VOCs. Shop for secondhand furniture that has completed its off-gassing process. And if you must bring something with VOCs into your home, allow it to off-gas with plenty of ventilation.
5. Remove your shoes
Your mom was right when she told you to take off your shoes at the door. It’s not just muddy footprints you’re tracking in. Think of everywhere you go in a day. During your trek, your shoes can pick up bacteria, parasites, allergens, pesticides and countless other nasty materials.
One study found the outside of shoes averaged 421,000 units of bacteria, including E. coli. According to the study, the bacteria could survive on shoes over long distances, and they would easily transfer to previously uncontaminated floors. But there’s a silver lining. Washing the shoes according to manufacturer instructions reduced the bacteria by 99 percent. In between washes, just leave those dirt traps at the door.
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