The air inside your home can be much more heavily polluted than the air outside. But don’t look to the Environmental Protection Agency for protection. The only clean air standards the EPA enforces are the ones that apply to the out-of-doors. Within your home, the enforcement job is yours.
Indoor pollutants range from sulfur dioxide (one of the components of smog) to formaldehyde, phthalates and flame retardants. Some homes are contaminated with radon drifting up from the ground (the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., contributing to 20,000 deaths a year), some by secondhand smoke (which kills 3,000 non-smoking adults in the U.S. a year). Carbon monoxide is another common pollutant, which, at high doses, can kill within minutes.
There are many things you can do to reduce your exposure:
Clean well and often to eliminate toxic dust. Vacuum with a HEPA filter, then wet mop. Dust furniture with a damp or microfiber cloth. (Dry mopping and dry dusting are ineffective.)
Use green household and personal care products. Water, vinegar and baking soda are great natural cleansers that will see you through most cleaning tasks with ease. To find safe commercial products, use the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Cleaning Guide and Cosmetics Database. Get rid of bad home and body odors by cleaning and washing, rather than using scented products. Those scents are typically endocrine disrupters that pose health risks.
Protect against silent killers. Test for radon (it’s simple and cheap to do) and arrange for mitigation measures if a problem is found. To reduce exposure to carbon monoxide, get your fuel-burning appliances inspected yearly and don’t idle cars in an attached garage. Also consider installing carbon monoxide detectors (some states require them), but don’t rely on them as the first line of defense as they may malfunction or their batteries may die.
Finally, don’t allow smoking indoors.
Read Curing Indoor Air to learn more.