When I think of air pollution, a picture comes to mind of a factory, pumping heavy, black smoke into the air. But I rarely think about the quality of the air inside my home, which apparently can be much more polluted than the air outside -- especially in the cooler weather, when we keep our houses as airtight as possible.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, levels of air pollution indoors can be 2 to 100 times higher than the air pollution outdoors, and most people spend up to 90 percent of their time inside.
Some minor problems that can be caused by indoor air pollution include burning eyes, nose or throat, headaches and fatigue, which can usually be treated simply by removing the source of the pollution. And more serious problems like allergies, respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer can occur after long term exposure to certain pollutants. So, it’s a good idea to improve your indoor air quality even if no one in your household has any symptoms.
There are many things that can contribute to indoor air pollution, from molds to cleaning products. The Ohio Department of Health has a comprehensive list.
Tom Olecki, the manager of Broadview Heating in Broadview Heights, said that changing your furnace filter regularly can help reduce some indoor pollutants and help with allergy symptoms. He also said that humidifying your home in the winter can significantly improve the quality of your air.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Health offers some additional tips for improving indoor air quality on its website. Here are some of their suggestions, along with some local resources:
- Use natural household cleaning products, rather than those with chemicals. Heinen’s has a wide selection of natural cleaning products.
- Do not allow smoking in your home.
- Reduce mold by drying or removing water-damaged materials like carpets. Ameristeam Drying & Environmental Cleanup in Broadview Heights and Greenway Healthy Living Products in North Royalton are both companies that specialize in mold removal.
- Clean and check your heating system at the beginning of the heating season. See Brecksville's list of approved contractors on the city's website.
- Change filters on air conditioning, heating and air cleaner systems according to the manufacturer’s directions. Larsen Lumber is one place that carries furnace filters.
- Have your home tested for radon.
I'm not looking forward to closing the windows and turning on the furnace, but taking steps to improve our indoor air quality will help me breathe easier this winter.