Breathing Better with Indoor Air Quality Tips for Spring
Spring Indoor Air Quality Tips
Ahhh . . . the welcomed change of season from winter to spring. Warmer spring temperatures mean a lot of outdoor activities and the beginning of the air conditioning season. It also brings the spring pollen season, as trees, flowers, and grass put on their glorious show. While we might love the display, people with asthma and allergies must be very careful.
Allergies can bring headaches, itchy eyes, running nose, coughing, and sneezing. As you might know, pollen follows you indoors, so it seems that the only relief comes at the end of pollen season. If you need to reduce the number of airborne irritants in your home, here are a few tips to help clean your indoor air.
Air pollution, whether indoors or outdoors, comes from many different sources. Dust, pollen, mold spores, secondhand smoke, and a host of other sources contribute to the problem. Eliminating the sources will be key to reducing the number of particles in the air.
Some particles are more hazardous than others; much of the hazard results from personal allergic reactions. We already mentioned pollen, but pet hair/dander, mold spores, and dust mites also are considered harmful allergens to humans. Neutralizing the harmful aspects of these allergens is the next important step to reducing the danger they pose.
Other particles, such as volatile organic compounds and cleanser fumes can pose a long-term health concern. After reducing the sources of allergens and their harmful aspects, removing the particles is the final solution.
Indoor Air Quality: Removing Particles at the Source
- There are several reasons to seal around doors and windows; keeping particles out of indoor spaces is yet another reason.
- Every time you enter the home, you carry particles in. A good practice is to remove shoes and outerwear (jackets and sweaters) immediately after entering to prevent spreading pollen and spores.
- Mold grows well in dark and moist spaces. Keeping relative humidity lower than 50% will hinder a mold infestation. That means using your shower exhaust fans for several minutes after a shower and using your air conditioner during summer humidity.
Indoor Air Quality: Reducing the Hazards
- The particles that present the greatest allergic reactions are organic in origin; they are still alive and the proteins they contain cause the allergies. Under the right circumstances, some of these organic particles will grow and produce more particles. Installing ultraviolet lights inside your ductwork will damage/burst the cell walls; the inert byproducts will collect on the air filter and can no longer grow.
- If you keep pets and have allergies to hair and dander, it is important to groom your pet to reduce the volume of hair.
Indoor Air Quality: Rid Your Home of the Particles
- Your HVAC system has an air filter, designed to remove airborne particles from your home forever. Change the filter regularly—at least every three months.
- Dust, vacuum, and mop regularly; change bedding and remove unnecessary dust collectors. Good old-fashioned house cleaning removes the particles that have fallen onto surfaces.
- Some dust will get around the air filter and get deposited in your duct network. Make sure to clean your ductwork every 3 to 5 years.
Indoor Air Quality: Removing Inorganic Particles
The two biggest sources of chemical particles from nonliving sources are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and household cleaners.
- VOCs are released by most manufactured products: the odor is the “new car” or “new carpet” smell. Materials, paints, and adhesives release large molecules and some of them are hazardous to our health. These products will release very small amounts of VOCs for the life of the product, but the first 30 days are the worst. Make sure to ventilate the spaces with possible VOCs like new furniture, paint, or flooring installations.
- Some cleansers also release hazardous chemicals, and the odor is often quite obnoxious. Oven cleaners or products with bleach or ammonia are contaminating the indoor air. Reach for more environmentally friendly cleaning solutions to improve the air quality in your home.
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