Ventilate your home by opening windows and using fans to blow air outside. Keep windows closed, however, on high-pollution days and, if you have seasonal allergies, when pollen counts are high. Interested in air cleaning machines? Their effectiveness varies.
Keep indoor humidity below 50 percent to prevent mold growth. Use air conditioners in warm, humid weather. If you use a humidifier in winter, clean and disinfect it often.
Don’t use air fresheners, scented candles, incense and the like. They mask rather than remove odors. Air fresheners actually pollute indoor air with such potential carcinogens as paradichlorobenzene and limonene; scented candles produce polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Don’t assume that “green” air fresheners are any safer.
Mothballs produce paradichlorobenzene and naphthalene fumes, which if inhaled in sufficient amounts can make you sick. People sometimes wear sweaters (or sleep under blankets) that smell of mothballs—not a great idea. To combat moths, clean clothes before storing: wash washables and dry-clean woolens. Store clothes in airtight containers without mothballs. Also avoid using insect sprays.
Shoes can track in pesticides, dirt and other kinds of pollutants, so wipe them on a doormat to capture this debris, then remove your shoes. If you have crawling babies or toddlers who pick things up from the floor, consider setting up a shoe removal area just outside the door for family and guests. The floors will stay cleaner.
Use a vacuum with a microfiltration bag or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate-arresting) filter—especially if you have allergies to dust, dander, dust mites or pollen. These have a two-ply design that can trap many of the smallest particles. Such filters cost more than the standard ones and may fit only certain vacuum models. There are also electrostatic filters that fit over the exhaust of some models, but these can generate harmful ozone as a byproduct.
If you are buying and/or installing new carpet, ask the retailer for carpet, padding and adhesives that have the lowest emissions. Ask whether the installer will follow the Carpet and Rug Institute’s guidelines, which were designed to reduce emissions. Increase ventilation for two or three days after installation.
If you are buying unfinished pressed-wood furniture or building materials, buy those stamped with the HUD (Housing and Urban Development) emissions seal. Government regulations have reduced the formaldehyde content of many products. Also avoid using aerosol furniture polishes and paste waxes.
In addition to the tips above, don’t cook with charcoal indoors, including houseboats and motor homes or trailers. Never run your car engine in a garage, particularly an attached garage. Thanks to new regulations, CO emissions from automobiles are much lower than they used to be.
Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas found naturally in soil and water. It can seep into a house through cracks in the foundation as well as construction joints. You should test your home for radon, particularly if you live in an area where radon is prevalent. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and about one in every 15 U.S. homes has elevated levels. You can find out whether your home has radon by purchasing a do-it-yourself test kit at hardware stores. Radon problems can be fixed by installing special ventilation systems and sealing foundation cracks.