Indoor air quality is growing in importance as more and more people spend time working, playing and living indoors. It is estimated that indoor air pollutants are up to five times higher than outdoor pollution in some areas. The air quality in a home can therefore have a drastic effect on the health of a family. Not only will children or parents with asthma feel the effects of poor air in the home, but family members may start to suffer from allergies because of the particles in the air. It is estimated that an increase in perennial allergic rhinitis, or year-long allergies, can be attributed in part to the increased amount of dust mites and mold that people breathe in every day.
Dust mites, pet dander and mold are all major contributors to air pollutants in the home. For the 30 million people who suffer from asthma, any actions taken to reduce pollutant levels in a home or office can greatly improve their quality of life.
One of the easiest steps to take in improving indoor air quality is to change the filter in the home heating and ventilation system regularly. It is recommended that a new filter be put in every three months. If possible, install a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. These filters capture 99.9% of the dust mites, mold spores and other pollutants that go through the home air circulation system.
Keeping mold from growing in a home is vital to maintaining good indoor air quality as well. The mold created in high moisture areas like the bathroom will grow and release spores into the air, making breathing difficult for asthma sufferers. It is recommended that a home's humidity level stay between 35% and 50% in order to keep mold from growing. An inexpensive hygrometer available at most hardware stores can measure humidity levels to help home owners determine if they need to purchase a humidifier (to add moisture to the air) or a dehumidifier (to reduce air moisture).
Approximate 85% of asthma cases are caused by the dust mites and waste that reside in mattresses and bedding. Tightly woven micro-fiber encasements create impermeable barriers against dust mites, reducing the amount of allergens that settle into our beds. These encasements can be purchased for pillows, mattresses, box springs, duvet covers and cribs to shield our bedding from microscopic organisms that can make our breathing air polluted.
Homes with dogs or cats are much more likely to have high levels of air pollutants because of the hair and skin pets shed daily. To reduce pet allergens at home, regularly bathe pets using a hypo-allergenic shampoo that controls their dander and softens their skin.
Maintaining good indoor air quality requires simple home cleaning. Families should wash their bedding and linens in 120 to 140 degree hot water regularly. Carpets and rugs should be vacuumed once a week and the contents of the vacuum bag should be removed from the house immediately. Dust and clean using non-allergenic cleaning agents whenever possible.
Asthma sufferers do not need to feel that the quality of the air they breathe is completely out of their control. By taking some time to improve the environment in the home and workplace, families may find that they can breathe a big sigh of relief in knowing they have done their part to improve their lives.
~Ben Anton, 2008
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