We’re all doing our part to improve air quality in our own country and abroad. We’ve largely given up aerosol sprays, hybrids have flooded the market, the EPA has stricter standards for manufacturers who pollute the air, and Al Gore made a movie about global warming. In short, we’ve had to sit up and take notice of the effect air pollution is having not only on our environment, but also on our health.
And because most of us want to leave the planet in better shape than we found it, we’re more than happy to take steps to improve air quality by reducing pollution, greenhouse gases, and ultimately, global warming. However, most of us never think to look at the quality of the air we breathe in our own homes. And there are several toxins and gases that you may be breathing in night and day without even knowing. Here are a few of the usual suspects that you should consider ousting.
1. Chemical cleaners. Some of the worst offenders (and generally the least recognized) when it comes to air pollution are chemical solvents for cleaning. They often lead to asthma in adults and when mixed improperly, can even cause poisoning and death (ammonia + bleach = deadly chlorine gas). So ditch the chemicals and go for all natural green cleaners like those offered by 7th Generation and Green Works.
2. Pesticides. You don’t want your house overrun by cockroaches or ants, but if you’re spraying pesticides in and around your home, you are inhaling the same toxins that you use to kill bugs. Not only is it bad for your lungs, these chemicals can also work their way into the cells in your body to cause later damage. Instead, surround your house with naturally repelling plants (tobacco, onions, garlic, pepper, chrysanthemums, etc.) and use a mixture of dish-soap and water to spray bugs that wander over the threshold (or simply shoe them back outside).
3. VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are most commonly found in interior paint and they can seep into your air for years after the paint has dried. But don’t think that means you can’t have the bright and beautiful walls you desire. Simply use one of the many paint products on the market that is VOC-free.
4. Carbon monoxide. Gas-powered appliances (furnace, stove, etc.) are the major culprit of carbon monoxide in the home. You can attempt to install other means of heating (wood burning stove) and cooking (electric stove), but if gas is already in place, just make sure your appliances are properly ventilated and that you have CO₂ detectors around the house.
5. Second-hand smoke. If you partake of cigarettes, cigars, or other smokable items, or you live with someone who does, you are putting yourself and your family at risk for one of the deadliest inhalants on the planet: second-hand smoke. Even more toxic than actual smoking, this is one of the major causes of in-home air pollution. Do whatever you can to quit (or at least take it outdoors) and then consider fumigating your home (since smoke residue can hang around even after you put down the pack).