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Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

Basic Steps for Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

By implementing the following strategies, you will greatly reduce your indoor air pollutants, thereby reducing your family's toxic load:

Increase ventilation by opening a few windows every day for 5 to 10 minutes, preferably on opposite sides of the house.

Get some houseplants. Even NASA has found that plants markedly improve the air! Click here for the 10 best pollution-busting houseplants.

Take your shoes off as soon as you enter the house, and leave them by the door to prevent tracking in of toxic particles.

Discourage tobacco smoking in or around your home.

Switch to non-toxic cleaning products (such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar) and safer personal care products.

Avoid aerosols. Look for VOC-free cleaners. Avoid commercial air fresheners and scented candles, which can degass literally thousands of different chemicals into your breathing space.

Don't hang dry cleaned clothing in your closet immediately. Hang them outside for a day or two. Better yet, see if there's an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city that uses some of the newer dry cleaning technologies, such as liquid CO2.

Vacuum and shampoo/mop carpets, rugs, and floors regularly. Every time a person walks across the floor, a whirlwind of irritants is stirred up.

Upgrade your furnace filters. Today, there are more elaborate filters that trap more of the particulates. Have your furnace and air conditioning ductwork and chimney cleaned regularly.

Avoid storing paints, adhesives, solvents, and other harsh chemicals in your house or in an attached garage.

Avoid using nonstick cookware. I now carry my favorite alternative, ceramic cookware, in my store.

Ensure your combustion appliances are properly vented.

When building or remodeling, opt for safer and more eco-friendly materials. VOC-free paints are becoming easier to find.

Opt for sustainable hardwood flooring instead of carpet. Carpet traps a multitude of particles such as pet dander, heavy metals, and all sorts of allergens. If you choose to install carpet, look for one labeled "VOC-free" to avoid toxic outgassing.

Make sure your house has proper drainage and its foundation is sealed properly.

The same principles apply to ventilation inside your car—especially if your car is new—and chemicals from plastics, solvents, carpet and audio equipment add to the toxic mix in your car's cabin. That "new car smell" can contain up to 35 times the health limit for VOCs, "making its enjoyment akin to glue-sniffing," as this article reports.

If you are planning an outdoor activity, you might want to check the air quality forecast for the area at a website called, especially if you have respiratory challenges.

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