8 Ways to Have Cleaner Indoor Air This Winter
Tips for breathing easy at home
Winter is a time when people are glad to get home out of the cold, peel off their outerwear and get cozy. It’s also a time when indoor air can be its most polluted.
According to UL, the air inside your home can be as much as four to five times more polluted than the air outside, particularly during the winter, when people do their best to keep fresh (cold) air out to save on heating.
Making matters worse in November and December is the flurry of activities we engage in — cleaning, painting, buying new furniture — to ready the house for holiday guests. Paints and new furniture may contain materials that release potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.
VOCs “are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands,” writes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, air fresheners, paints and paint strippers.
These airborne chemicals can make people feel sick, potentially causing headaches, difficulty breathing, nausea and dizziness, as well as eye, nose and throat irritation, according to UL. Extended exposure raises the risk of cancer and/or damage to the heart, liver or kidneys and central nervous system, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
UL says, people in households with infants and young children, older people, or women who are pregnant should make particular efforts to minimize exposure to VOCs.
Here are eight ways to keep your indoor air cleaner, courtesy of UL and the EPA.
Reconsider painting. Prior to the holidays is when people
like to paint. But you might want to reconsider, since this is the time of year
that your house is closed up a lot. If you have to paint, be sure to ventilate
Use less-toxic paints. If you do paint, choose a paint
labeled low-VOC or no-VOC. To make sure it really is, look for confirmation
from a third party. Products with third-party certification include
UL GREENGUARD Certified or UL GREENGUARD GOLD Certified paints. (See
a list of certified paints
Change your cleaning
products. Buy unscented products. Everybody likes the smell of various
cleaning products, but that’s something you are breathing in too. Consider
using natural products, such as baking soda and vinegar.
Rethink your candle habit. Yes, even scented candles produce a form of
indoor air pollution.
Plan ahead for remodeling. Like
painting, try to do remodeling in a season when you can open the windows to
air things out. If you’ve remodeled a room you don’t
need to use every day, try to give it time to air out before spending a lot of
time in there.
“Acclimate” new furniture. If you are refurnishing a room, it’s ideal to air out the furniture before using it. If possible, do it outside. If that’s not practical because of the weather, put it in your garage for at least a week first.
Ask your guests to smoke outside. Yes, it’s cold out there. But any type of combustible, including cigarettes, emits formaldehyde and other chemicals.
Burn wise. That's the name of an EPA program that emphasizes burning the right wood in the right way. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, they should not emit smoke if they're used correctly. To help keep smoke from infiltrating your home's air, start fires with newspaper, kindling or natural wood only — never use an accelerant. Firewood should not be wet, green (unseasoned) or moldy. If you use artificial logs, choose ones made of 100 percent sawdust. Avoid burning household trash, including plastics, foam, rubber or paper with colored inks. Don't burn painted wood or pressure-treated wood. Regularly remove ashes into a covered, metal container.
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