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Manage Indoor Air Quality: Creating a Safer Home for Everyone

According to Dr. E. Neil Schacter, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York: “If you live in a home with chronically poor air quality, you can experience frequent headaches, long-lasting colds and bronchitis as well as chronic asthma.” This is particularly true during winter months when we tend to keep our doors and windows closed. Along with the cold and additional rainfall during this season, you’re bringing in moisture, allergens and bacteria while never allowing fresh air to circulate in an attempt to keep warm. This can make your home a perfect breeding ground for flu, colds and other allergens.

Bringing in outdoor air is one important factor in encouraging good air quality.

Air will enter a home in many different ways, including:

  • using natural ventilation, such as open windows and doors
  • through mechanical means, such as through motorized air intakes associated with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • through infiltration, when outdoor air slips into the house through openings, joints and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, and around windows and doors.
  • Outdoor air infiltration is generally present in all homes to some extent.

Many residential forced air heating systems and air conditioning systems won’t bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are depended on to bring outdoor air into the home. Modern designs for new homes are beginning to include a mechanical feature that brings outdoor air into the home using the HVAC system. Some of these designs utilize energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators to mitigate the cost of cooling and heating this air during the summer and winter.

Here are some simple DIY remedies to make your home cleaner and safer for you and your family.

  • Air out your home: When weather is pleasant, open a window. Easy and free. This will always be one of the most effective ways to get the old air out and fresh air in. If you live in a heavy industrial or chemical area, be careful that you are not trading one concern for another.
  • Air Purifiers: Quality air purifiers easily improve indoor air quality by purifying allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is particularly beneficial to people struggling with asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. Preferably, going off of the layout of your home, it is best to place air purifiers in all bedrooms as well as the main living areas.
  • Essential Oils: Essential oils can be used to effectively clean and freshen indoor air. A quality DIY essential oil room spritzer recipe is the following:
    • Add 12-15 drops of pure essential oil to 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of purified water.
    • Place in a dark glass spray bottle and shake well before any use. This recipe is especially effective in bathrooms, closets and “sick rooms.” Make sure that the essential oils you use lack chemical additives as this could lead to further unwanted allergens.
    • Other essential oils for air purification include: Lemongrass, Lime, Lavender, Sweet Orange, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary, Sage, Tangerine, Tea Tree, Thyme, Frankincense, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grapefruit, Helichrysum, White Camphor, Marjoram, Myrrh, Cilantro, Citronella.
  • Consistent Cleaning: Making time for dusting and frequent vacuuming will help tremendously in reducing airborne pollutants like mold, pollen, pet dander and dust mites. Use nontoxic cleaning products.
  • Change HVAC filters: Change furnace and air-conditioning filters when directed to. Spray rubbing alcohol on the vents inside your home. If you find mold on the vents use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to kill the mold.
  • Remedy mold issues: If your house has ventilation vulnerabilities, your home has a basement or you live in a humid area, it’s a great idea to have your home evaluated yearly for mold.
  • Dry Cleaning: Before bringing in clothes that have been dry cleaned, allow them to hang in the garage or on the patio first. Dry cleaning products emit chemicals like formaldehyde.

By improving the air quality of your home, most likely you and your family are going to experience fewer respiratory concerns and feel better for the rest of the year.