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Inside: The Air We Breathe

An introduction to the sources of indoor air pollution and the beginning of a series to offer suggestions to make the air inside your home healthier.

Recently, spikes in hot weather around the Bay Area have called for local “Spare the Air” days whereby commuters are requested to carpool, stay at home, or ride public transportation to help curb the amount of exhaust gases we add to our local atmosphere. While most of us are familiar with this call to action, many people are unaware of the dangers of the air they breathe indoors.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air pollution is two to five times greater than outdoor air pollution depending on a wide range of variables.

This information is often overlooked by most of us, either because we naturally feel safer in our homes or because the issue hasn’t received as much attention as it requires. Indeed, a common solution to environmental threat is announcements to remain indoors, but what if the air inside your home is more toxic than the Great Outdoors?

Indoor toxins come from a variety of sources and concentrate as they are trapped inside your home. These concentrations of pollutants are exacerbated by high temperatures and humidity. While the sources of toxins are too many to list individually, there are major pollutants that each homeowner should be aware of. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the 10 most prevalent indoor pollutants are:

  • Radon
  • Environmental tobacco smoke
  • Biological contaminants like mold and mildew
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Household chemicals (with high VOCs)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Pesticides
  • Asbestos
  • Lead

When you look at it, it’s a pretty threatening list. Yet, there is a lot you can do to protect your family from the health threats that these pollutants pose. Many of these pollutants can be controlled quite easily and economically, with the right information.

Over the years, I’ve helped many Bay Area clients control pollutants in their home and help them design strategies to improve their indoor air quality. Much of the advice I give is simple; such as keeping their appliances well maintained, using less toxic cleaning products, clearing their garage spaces of unnecessary chemical products, and using indoor plants to absorb pollutants.

I want everyone to live in healthier homes. It’s a fundamental principle of the “green building movement”. Improving indoor air quality has great rewards; not just to protect the health and well being of the families inside each home. Strategies to control indoor pollutants can have ancillary benefits as well, such as, increasing the energy efficiency of homes, environmental protection, greenhouse gas reduction, and encouraging product manufacturers to produce less toxic consumer goods.

Stay tuned to Natural Nesting; I’ll be writing periodic pieces on the major pollutants inside our homes and offer suggestions for how to make your home a much healthier place to live.

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