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Air Quality: How Bad Is My Air and How Can I Fix It?

Updated on August 22, 2013

Air quality is one of our most important concerns.

 

Between work and home, people tend to spend roughly 90% of their time indoors. It stands to reason that indoor air quality would be a concern. Those who need clean air the most - children, people with illnesses, the elderly - spend even more time inside.

Because of time spent indoors and a host of other factors, inside air can be worse for your health than outside air. I'm going to tell you about some of the causes and effects of indoor air pollution and what you can do to get rid of it. And many of those tips have no monetary cost!

The goal is clean indoor air

The goal is clean indoor air
The goal is clean indoor air

How do I know my air is bad?

If you feel sick and congested inside your own home, you can pretty much be sure your air pollution is too high. Some other signs include:

  • Strange and noticeable smells

  • Feeling healthier outside

  • Stuffy, stale air

  • A reaction after remodeling, getting new furniture, using household products or moving into a new place

  • A noticeable lack of air movement

  • Appearance of mold and mildew

  • Excessive humidity

There are many ways the air quality in your home or office can decrease. In the next section we'll go over some of these.

What are common sources of indoor air pollution?

Cigarette Smoke

Tobacco smoke produces formaldehyde, particulates and combustion products.

Biological Pollutants and Moisture

Mold, dust mites, animal hair, mildew and roaches from high humidity, poorly maintained air conditioners and humidifiers and poor ventilation.

Small Particulates

Dust and pollen, particulates from fireplaces, wood stoves, unvented gas space heaters and kerosene heaters.

Combustion Products

Carbon monoxide from fossil fuel space heaters, unvented ovens and stoves, and backdrafts from water heaters and furnaces.

Lead

From lead-based paint dust, usually comes from removing, sanding, scraping or burning the paint.

Formaldehyde

Can be found in durable press textiles and drapes, adhesives and particle board products.

Asbestos

If your home is more than 20 years old it may have asbestos in it.

Radon Gas

Soil and rock beneath and around the foundation, wells and some building materials can produce the radioactive radon gas.

Household Products

Paints, air fresheners, solvents, glues, dry cleaned clothes, adhesives, aerosol sprays, and additives found in carpeting and furniture.

The problems with construction

Air and pollutants can enter a house through construction joints and cracks in the foundation, around windows and entryways, and in crawl spaces. Air also comes in through any open door or window. "The Exchange Rate" is the measure of how many times the volume of air inside a house is completely replaced with fresh outside air. In normal homes, the rate is .7 to one exchange per hour. In tight houses that don't allow much flow, the rate is .2 exchanges per hour. In leaky homes it can be as high as two exchanges per hour.

It is important that indoor air be circulated to avoid the stuffiness that can cause so many problems.

General Remedies

The Air Conditioner

Might be a source of allergens.

Empty and clean the water tray often if your unit has one. Change the filter regularly and follow the service guidelines and maintenance procedures.

Air Fresheners

Can release organic gases.

Open a window or use an exhaust fan. If you have to use one, use a natural one and follow directions.

The Animals

Animals leave dander, hair, feather and skin allergens in the air.

Clean the entire house regularly. Deep clean area where pets are frequent. Clean pets regularly.

Bath and Beauty Products

Chemicals in some products can release organic gases.

Use odorless or low odor products in nonaerosol varieties. Open a window or use an exhaust fan. Follow manufacturer specifications when using and disposing of them.

Cabinetry, paneling and pressed-wood furniture

May release formaldehyde.

You should always ask what the formaldehyde content is before purchasing cabinets and furniture. Some pressed-wood products emit less formaldehyde due to phenol resin. You may get less formaldehyde from products with a polyurethane or laminate coating. Always keep moderate humidity and temperature.

Carpet

New carpet can release organic gases. Mold and other pollutants can grow on water damaged carpet.

Clean and dry wet carpet immediately or get rid of it. If installing carpet and you need an adhesive, ask for ones with low emissions. Open doors and windows and use fans during installation. Vacuum on a regular basis. Area rugs may be better than wall-to-wall carpet as they are easier to move and clean.

Cigarette Smoke

Contains combustion and particulate pollutants and carbon monoxide.

It is best not to smoke at all inside the house, especially a house with children. If there is no other place, only smoke in one place, open the windows and use an exhaust fan.

Curtains and drapes

New drapes could be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish.

Ventilate drapes and curtains outside before hanging. Once hung, ventilate the area and maintain a moderate humidity and temperature.

Dry Cleaned Clothing

Chemicals release organic gases.

If there is an odor, tell your dry cleaner. Air out clothes before bringing them in the house. Try to use hand washed items instead.

Dust Mites

Can trigger asthma.

Wash your bedding in hot water. Clean and vacuum on a regular basis. Hard surface finishes are less likely to attract dust mites.

Engine Exhaust

A source of carbon monoxide and combustion products.

Don't leave small or large vehicles or lawn mowers running in your garage.

Fertilizers and Pesticides

Chemicals may be toxic.

Use nonchemical methods when you can. Follow directions for mixing, storing and using and wear protective clothing. Mix them outside. Use ventilation when using indoors. Store them outside in the original containers. After use, remove your clothes and shoes and clean them and your hands.

The Fireplace

Can be a source of combustion pollutants and carbon monoxide.

Always have the flue open when using a fireplace. Inspect the flue and the chimney annually. Use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Floor Tiles

Some tiles contain asbestos.

If you find damaged floor tiles, call a professional to remove or repair it. Do not sand, rip, cut or remove any material that contains asbestos.

Furnances and Water Heaters

Can backdraft carbon monoxide and combustion products.

Have venting, gas piping and your water heater and heating system inspected every year.

Ground Moisture

Encourages mold and mildew.

Install a sump pump for standing water. Inspect for standing water on the floor, sewage leaks or wall condensation. Install gutters and downspouts, don't water close to the foundation and apply waterproof sealants to basement interior walls. Have sewage drains professionally cleaned if they are causing standing water. If you can't see the source, install exhaust fans that are controlled by humidity levels. Regularly clean the basement floor drain and remove mold and mildew.

Household Cleaners

Chemicals can release unhealthy or irritating vapors.

Use nontoxic and nonaerosol products. Use and dispose of them under the manufacturer's directions. Use all of a product.

Humidifiers

Cold mist vaporizers can breed mold and mildew that can cause asthma and encourage viruses and bacteria.

Change the water every day, and use and clean them according to the manufacturer's directions.

Moisture

Moisture can create biological pollutants like mold, dust mites and mildew, and breed roaches.

Get rid of moisture sources if possible. Use exhaust fans and a dehumidifier if necessary. Use natural and mechanical air circulation to keep air fresh. Kill mold and mildew with one cup of bleach to every gallon of water.

Moth Repellents

Often contain paradichlotobenzene.

Don't breathe the vapors if you can help it. Store them away from living areas and only place them in tightly sealed containers.

Paint and Solvents

Releases harmful vapors.

Always ventilate an area when using these and follow directions. Don't buy more than you need. Use outdoors if they contain methylene chloride. Reseal well. Keep in the original container and clean brushes and other tools outside.

Paint with Lead

Lead may be in any paint made before 1978.

Don't disturb lead-based paint if it is in good condition. Test for lead before removing any paint. You can get a test kit at a hardware store. If you need to remove lead paint, hire a professional with special training.

Radon

Radioactive gas that poses a risk for lung cancer.

Test your home for radon gas. If your level is 4 picocuries per liter or higher, have a radon contractor fix your home. You can do the test yourself and monitor it with a Radon Detector.

Space Heaters

Releases carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants.

Always vent kerosene and gas space heaters. Always open a door to the rest of the house in any room containing a space heater and turn on an exhaust fan and open a window slightly.

Unvented Clothes Dryer

Gas dryers can be a fire hazard and product carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts.

Get rid of lint regularly around and under the dryer. Provide air for gas units. Vent the dryer outside and clean the vent and duct work regularly.

Unvented Stove/Range

Source of carbon monoxide and combustion products.

Keep burners clean, periodically adjust them, and use an exhaust fan. Never use it to heat the home.

Other Ideas

Use a smoke detector in each bedroom or the nearest hallway.

Use carbon monoxide detectors in any place with appliances that use gas or fossil fuels.

Filter the air. Clean or replace filters regularly. The most effective come with a HEPA filter.

Encase mattresses, pillows, and box springs in airtight covers.

Use blankets and covers with synthetic fibers instead of down, kapok or cotton.

Wash bedding weekly in hot water. Wash pillows and comforters regularly.

Replace synthetic pillows every couple of years.

Use high quality vacuum bags and change them frequently.

Air Purifiers

Air Free Air Purifiers

The Airfree air purifier and sterilizer has a technology that is more unique than anything in the industry. Airfree uses heat to sterilize indoor air without heating the room. Inside Airfree's patented ceramic core, 99.99% of all microorganisms (such as spores, fungus, bacteria, viruses, mold, dust mites, feces and insect skeletons) are burned at temperatures around 400° F (250ºC). The AirFree is totally silent and will treat rooms up to 650 sq. ft. in size. There are three models and colors to match your mood.

All AirFree models are ideal for the following:

  • Home, Office, Condo, Apartment or any other area up to 650 square feet in size.

  • If you have a need to eliminate fungi, bacteria, mold, and viruses.

  • The AirFree will incinerate all microorganisms it comes in contact with and also helps eliminate odors originating from smoke, mold, fungi and germs.

  • Helps to preserve valuables such as video tapes, computers, art, and paper documents that are affected by any type of microorganism.

  • Great for placing in your child's room to help eliminate germs.

  • Ideal and very effective in Day Care facilities and Schools, to help remove and prevent germs from spreading among the children.

  • Allows you to have a unit that requires NO MAINTENANCE. NO filters, NO replacement parts. All AirFree units are chemical and ozone free, are lightweight and can be placed anywhere you wish.

Visit Promolife's AirFree Purifiers page for more information.

Austin Air Air Purifiers

Austin Air Healthmate, Healthmate Plus and HEGA Air Purifiers

are perfect for someone who...

  • Suffers from allergies/asthma

  • Has multiple chemical sensitivities and needs an air filter that doesn't outgas

  • Wants a good value in an air purifier for particulates, odors and gases for up to 1500 sq ft

  • Needs HEPA particulate (small particle) filtration as well as filters for gases, odors and/or smoke

  • A city dweller with medium particulate allergies who also may have city or neighborhood pollutants that produce odors, gases and/or soot

  • Needs to remove volatile organic compounds and chemically reactive gases such as formaldehyde, ammonia and odors

  • Wants an air purifier that resists scratching, scuffing and smudging

  • Wants to be able to move the air purifier easily from room to room on casters

The Baby's Breath Series offers the highest level of protection from a wide variety of airborne contaminants, ensuring your baby receives the cleanest and freshest air necessary for proper development.

The HealthMate addresses the complete spectrum of air cleaning, removing sub-micron particles, noxious gases and chemicals. Austin Air's 360-degree intake system draws air into all sides of the HealthMate, passing it through a 4-stage filter.

Visit Promolife's Austin Air page for more information.

Lightning Air Air Purifiers

Lightning Air ozone generators are simple to operate. Activated oxygen plates are removed through slots in the back of the unit and can be washed with a mild cleaner for easy maintenance. Made in the USA.

All Lightning Air models are made of solid wood in three colors to blend into your home décor. The LA2 is for normal indoor spaces such as homes and offices and will cover up to 3500 sq ft. The LA-4 is for bars, restaurants and heavily used areas and will treat up to 5000 sq ft.

The Lightning Air is not a filter. It generates the negative ions that nature uses to clear the air of dust and other particles. Plus it produces activated oxygen to remove odors without the use of fragrances. This helps to break down mold, mildew and other pollutants at their source.

Visit Promolife's Lightning Air page for more information.

NeoAir Air Purifiers

NeoAir offers the NeoAir Enviro, Plus and Cruiser. The NeoAir Plus is an excellent multi-stage home air purifier that offers you and your family protection against a countless number of airborne pollutants and irritants. It combines proven-to-work technologies like SuperHEPA Filtration and the latest OFS sterilization technology. Whether you want to remove dust and pollen from the living room, neutralize molds and fungi in the kitchen or basement, or drastically reduce certain bacteria from the bath the NeoAir can handle all your needs.

Visit Promolife's NeoAir page for more information.

Ozone Air Purifiers

Activated Oxygen Ozone Generators take available oxygen (O2) from the surrounding air and convert it to ozone (O3). Ozone naturally has a very short half-life and quickly breaks down to oxygen again in 20-40 minutes. As the ozone breaks down the third oxygen atom is released - this free oxygen atom must attach itself to some other gaseous element like odors or microorganisms in the surrounding air. When the single oxygen atom combines with an odorous element or deadly microorganism it is immediately oxidized and eliminated.

Ozone air purifiers improve air quality by reducing many indoor pollutants that filters alone are not able to trap. Activated Oxygen or O3 breaks down the odor and other pollutants at their source. Normal oxygen O2 is converted to O3. Ozone then breaks down odors and other contaminates that are harmful or irritating to people.

These purifiers are available for Residential and Commercial uses. Visit Promolife.

Personal Air Ionizers

A great way to energize the air surrounding you. Negative Air Ionizers help maintain fresh air at all times. Great for airplanes, cars, offices, rooms, or any personal space you desire.

Visit Promolife's Personal Air Ionizers page for more information and choices.

Choosing an Air Purifier

Choosing an Air Purifier is a very important task. Keep these thoughts in mind when looking at any of the options above:

  1. Do you need a medical grade purifier? If you simply want to remove contaminants from your air, a normal purifier may work just fine. If you need your air super clean to benefit someone with an illness or compromised immune system, the Healthmate may be the way to go.

  2. How much space do you have? Most of these purifiers are not very big in comparison to other items you might have in your home. If you're looking for something to blend in like a table, look into LightningAir. If you're looking for something to hide under a table, look into some of the others.

  3. What is the size of the area you want to purify? If your house is small, you don't need a purifier that covers 1600 square feet. If you have a smaller house but there are a lot of walls and corners, you might want to consider two or three smaller units placed throughout or one that is for a larger space.

  4. What kind of contaminants are in your air? If a smoker lives in your house, no air purifier is going to help 100%. You may want to ask them to smoke outside or buy a higher grade purifier and place it in the area they frequent most. Make sure to change any filter often.

For any other questions

If you have any questions about these models or air purity in general, feel free to visit Promolife or call us toll free at 888-742-3404.

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      Best Air Purifier Review for 2015 23 months ago

      Yes, i loved this article ... there were so many key points you need to go through to make sure your air is clean and breathable ... at least when you are sleeping ...

      There are many products in the market ...

      But i have reviewed the top best air purifier reviews for 2015.

      If you want to check it out, please visit http://www.airpurifierreviewst.info/ ...

      Thanks :)

    • profile image

      mariahudges 3 years ago

      Nice lense :)

    • profile image

      JFitch10 4 years ago

      Just a basic air filter in your homes HVAC unit is the best way to start. It's an essential that should be changed between 30-180 days depending on the type used.

    • profile image

      Doc_Holliday 5 years ago

      Perhaps it is best not to smoke at all, let alone indoors. That way you clean up your health as well as the environment.

    • mgs249 profile image

      mgs249 5 years ago

      My apartment reeks of cigarette smoke odor, not because I'm a smoker, but because, my neighbor downstairs smokes. I've written my own lens on www.squidoo.com/second-hand-cigarette-smoke. I have to move because I have asthma and this is very unhealthy for me. Thanks for your lens.

    • LewesDE profile image

      LewesDE 5 years ago

      This is a great lens!

    • sara0129 profile image

      Shamim Rajabali 6 years ago from Texas

      Your "General Remedies" guidelines is very helpful. People often overlook these. Thanks. I have read that having a room air cleaner in the bedroom at night may help with allergy symptoms in the morning.

      Your readers may also like to read about the Alen a375uv air purifier. This is for those with Multiple Chemical Sensitvity (MCS)

    • Dietzster profile image

      Dietzster 6 years ago

      Very detailed and great information about cleaning up our personal environment.

    • profile image

      LilN 6 years ago

      Air cleaners are certainly a great investment for every family. Thank you for sharing this information with us!

    • BigFish1 profile image

      BigFish1 6 years ago

      This is a great selection of air purification equipment. Our company is looking to start selling these items. Perhaps you could contact us if you have any dealer opportunities. Thanks.

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    • profile image

      Ladyclodine 7 years ago

      Since there are many different hepa air purifiers on the market, please check the Air Purifier Reviews for customer ratings that can guide you to making an informed decision.

    • profile image

      AirPurifierHQ 7 years ago

      As human beings, we depend on air to keep us alive. In fact, without air, life is non-existent! Sadly, many changes in our environment caused by the negative effects of modern technology have deemed our air to be polluted â pure, clean air is no longer a free commodity. That is why we need home air purifiers to keep us healthy.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Air purifiers Rock! Lensrolled to Home Air Purifier Technology.

      Keep up the good work!!!

      Susie

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      This is an excellent lens on the way healthier air purifier option. If you suffer from any sort of allegories, then I believe it is imperative that you own one; it's also especially useful against second-hand smoke.