Here are some ways to improve a healthy environment in your home.
Fresh Air Infusion
The cheap-and-easy first step to better indoor air is to bring some fresh outdoors air inside. Be sure to ventilate correctly, especially in cold climates. Do not leave windows tilted or cracked open constantly, which will reduce your heating efficiency or worse over stress your heater which could add to the burden of indoor air pollutants. Instead open two or three windows wide to generate a good cross-draft, and a quick turnover of the air in the house. Leave the windows open for about five minutes, then close them up tightly again. Repeat two to three times daily. Finally, if you suffer from allergies or asthma, a high efficiency air filter may be a worthwhile investment.
Green your Cleaning
Every single day you make cleaning decisions, many of which involve putting chemicals on your skin, spraying them into the air you breathe or spreading them on the surfaces that children and pets occupy. For these reasons,greener cleaning is a good place to start improving the environmental health of your home.
Synthetic carpeting and installation materials are a significant source of indoor pollutants. The best bet is to use carpets of natural fibers, such as wool, cotton, silk or jute. Avoid backings, or use natural carpet pads, and do not glue the carpeting in place. Take care that your carpet choice is not treated with stain-resistant chemicals. If you have to settle for synthetic carpet, look for the Green Label of the Carpet and Rug Institute, and insist that the carpet be aired out at the distributor’s warehouse for 2-3 weeks before installation, or leave the carpet loosely rolled in a shed or garage. This will allow the carpet to off-gas, or release the most easily evaporating chemicals. Ventilate, more often after installation of the carpet. Once installed, clean your carpet without petrochemicals.
Particle board, Fiberboard or Plywood furniture products release chemicals from the glues used to hold to wood together (if the glues aren’t VOC-free or water-based). Upholstered furniture suffers many of the same issues as carpeting: synthetic cushions, stain-treated fabrics, flame retardants to boot. A few key steps to fresher furniture can help: First, look for green furniture options. Purchase from suppliers that are voluntarily applying high standards, such as Greenguard certification. This does not restrict you to the elite designers. For an extra measure of safety, let all newly purchased furniture stand in a well-ventilated location for 2-3 weeks before placing the furniture in areas with extended human occupancy.
You may be aware of laws controlling emissions of fine particulates from your car, or you may have seen particulate or PM warnings for air quality in your city. Fine particles can be inhaled and lodge in the narrow channels in the lungs, resulting in asthma and other diseases, as well as worsening of many pre-existing health conditions. The fine particles in smoke from your stove or fireplace present similar risks. Take the time at the beginning of the cold season to check your stove or fireplace for proper ventilation. And cook your food over the lowest possible heat, using oils with a high smoke point, such as canola oil. Low cooking temperatures will also avoid the potential creation of nitrosamines, potential cancer causing chemicals formed when proteins in cooked meats react at high temperatures, and will reduce any risks with non-stick pan coatings.
Toy and Hobby Tips
Like furniture, toys are probably everywhere in your house, and at least a corner or two is dedicated to the paraphernalia required for hobbies and do-it-yourself home maintenance. That means plastics, possibly even toxic sources like paints, strippers, glues, photo developing chemicals, or more. For the sake of your kids as well as your home, you should green your toys. And for hobbies, as well as do-it-yourself work around the house, minimize the risks by following these basic guidelines.Look for less toxic alternatives, such as low-VOC paints or baking soda paint remover. Purchase only as much as you need for the immediate job. Use in accordance with the supplier’s instructions. Properly seal and store safely out of reach of children.
Face it, a product designed to kill things is not going to be healthy in your home environment. So eliminate all pesticide use wherever they are not necessary to reduce other significant risks, such as killing disease vectors. Trade in your putting green lawn for a chemical-free certified backyard wildlife sanctuary and green your gardening.Lavender or cedar wood keep moths out of your clothing and make them smell good. Prevent pests by keeping attractions such as food stored in well-sealed, air-tight containers. If necessary, sprinkle a black pepper as a final line of defense against insects.
Biological Bad Guys
While we are on the topic of pests, let us not forget the molds, mildews, animal dander, pollens and a host of other “natural” pollutants that contribute to the suffering of allergic and asthmatics in particular. Prevent mold and mildew with exhaust fans or by ventilating kitchens and bathrooms or other places where humidity builds up. Minimize cool spots where condensation encourages biological growth by promoting good air flow along walls and using good insulation. Contaminants such as pollen and dander build up in house dust. Pet and pollen allergy problems can be minimized by designing to minimize dust collecting furniture or decorations, and using a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtering vacuum cleaner.
Drop the Dry Cleaning
Traditional dry cleaning uses a solvent, perchloroethylene, which has been linked to risks of bladder, esophageal and cervical cancer, as well as reduced fertility and irritation. Traces of this chemical have been shown to remain in clothing after dry cleaning and spread into the air once at home. So wear clothing that does not require dry cleaning when possible, and if necessary, look for alternatives to traditional dry cleaning.
Houseplants are nature’s air filters
Finally, now that you have done all that you can do to control the sources of pollution, brighten your rooms with some leafy plants. Keeping healthy houseplants will improve the oxygen levels in your house, and can help to filter the air, removing any remaining traces of formaldehyde, ammonia, and other volatile organic chemicals as well as combating molds.