How to Breathe Cleaner Air in Your Home

How to Breathe Cleaner Air in Your Home

Copyright 2005 by Joe Hickman


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concludes that indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental health risks in the U.S. today. They say indoor levels of pollutants can be two to five times as high as outdoor levels, and sometimes more.

Some problems of indoor pollution can be traced to energy efficiency, according to the Texas Institute for the Indoor Environment at the University of Texas. A tighter home is good for conserving energy but bad in terms of air pollution.

Second-Hand Smoke: For children, secondhand smoke increases the risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, and the severity and frequency of asthma episodes. It also can decrease lung function and increase the risk of ear infections and build-up of fluid in the middle ear. Children are vulnerable to secondhand smoke because they still are developing physically and have higher breathing rates than adults.

EPA is encouraging adults not to smoke in their car, home, or anywhere children are present. Don't hire baby sitters who smoke. For your kids, take the Smoke-Free Home Pledge.

Ozone, the key component in smog, has become an indoor problem. By itself, ozone is lower inside than outside. But when oily terpenes from products such as air fresheners, aroma-therapy candles, oils, and cleaning agents interact with ozone, they generate pollutants like formaldehyde.

Some other pollutants and what you can do about them:

Asbestos: Leave undamaged asbestos material alone. Call a qualified contractor if you must remove it.

Carbon monoxide: Keep gas appliances properly adjusted. Open fireplace flues. Don't run a car in an attached garage.

Dust mites, pollens, and pet dander: Wash bedding in hot water (130 degrees F). Use wool carpet or wood flooring. Use vacuums with high-efficiency filters.

Formaldehyde: Avoid pressed-wood products. Buy carpet with no formaldehyde content; increase ventilation.

Lead: Use bottled water if drinking water tests positive for lead. Don't sand or burn off lead paint. Cover with wallpaper.

Mold: Install kitchen and bathroom fans vented to the outdoors. Clean air conditioning and heating equipment. Keep basement dry.

Radon: Have a home test. Seal cracks in basement floor. Ventilate crawl space.

Pesticides: Use nonchemical methods of pest control. Don't store, pour, or mix pesticides inside the home.

About the Author:

About the Author: Joe Hickman, editor of is a former EPA Web writer in Dallas.

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