If you’re like most Americans, you spend up to 90 percent of your time indoors. And whether you’re at work, school, or home, that’s a problem. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than the air outdoors. Research shows that this constant exposure to pollutants puts you at a greater risk of respiratory problems, some cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurological problems. Even short-term exposure can trigger irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as dizziness, fatigue, and headaches. Unfortunately, when it comes to work, school, or other public places, there’s only so much you can do to protect yourself. But taking steps to clean up the air inside your house can help make home the healthy haven it’s meant to be.
The Dirty Dozen
What are some of the worst offenders contaminating the air you breathe? Some might be surprising. For instance, clothes that have been dry-cleaned can off-gas high levels of a cancer-causing chemical called perchloroethylene. And simply mopping your floor with a pine-scented cleaner can generate as many airborne particles as the cars on a busy city street. The difference is these microscopic particles are trapped inside your house.
Being aware of the everyday items that contribute to unhealthy indoor air is important. Here are 12 of the most common culprits:
- Aerosols with pressurized chemicals (e.g., hairspray and other personal care products)
- Air fresheners
- Candles and incense
- Dry cleaning
- Furniture, especially those that off-gas fire retardants or formaldehyde
- Gas stoves
- Household cleaning products
- New construction or remodeling
- Tobacco smoke
- Woodburning fireplaces
6 Ways to Clean Up Your Act
Fortunately there’s a lot you can do to reduce the amount of air pollution inside your home.
Become a plant parent. Studies show that potted plants can reduce indoor air pollution. In one study, houseplants reduced carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds by as much as 30 percent.
Ditch aerosols. Pressurized aerosols rely on chemical propellants. Instead of toxic aerosol products, opt for cleaner choices like spray-pump bottles, liquids, or solids that reduce or eliminate airborne pollutants.
Freshen the air naturally. One of the easiest ways to reduce odors is to simply open a window. Other options include setting essential oil diffusers or bowls of potpourri around the house.
Invest in an air purifier. Portable air purifiers sporting HEPA technology can help reduce particulate matter floating in the air. Because gas stoves and cooking release harmful particles into the air, consider using an air purifier in the kitchen.
Trade in harmful cleaning products. Go old-school by making your own cleaning products with baking soda, lemon, liquid soap, and white vinegar. Or look for one of the many natural, nontoxic cleaning products now popping up on store shelves.
Counteract indoor air pollution from the inside out. Since it’s impossible to eliminate all indoor air pollution, add a layer of protection with a bioavailable curcumin supplement (listed on labels as BCM-95), which studies show helps safeguard your respiratory and cardiovascular systems from damaging pro-inflammatory particulates. The B vitamins also protect the cardiovascular system from harmful airborne particles and provide a shield against air pollution that can damage genes.