(BPT) - Home should be your refuge, the place where you feel safest and can breathe easy. But what if the air inside your home is stuffy, stale or just downright dirty? Poor indoor air quality is common in American households, and if your home has bad air, it could be affecting your health.
Indoor pollutant levels can be significantly higher than outdoor levels, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. What's more, the EPA notes, because most homes have multiple sources of indoor air pollution, the cumulative effect of all that pollution can lead to health problems. The problems may show up immediately or take years to emerge, the EPA says, and can include respiratory problems, eye and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
Here are some common sources of indoor air pollution and what you can do to improve the air inside your home:
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Thousands of products give off VOCs, and the concentration of VOCs can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outside, the EPA says. Inside the home, paint, furniture and cleaning supplies are among the top sources of VOCs.
To reduce the presence of VOCs in your home, choose low- or no-VOC paints for home improvement projects. If you've recently purchased furniture or had new carpeting installed, be sure to use good ventilation - open windows and run ventilation fans to help evacuate VOCs. Choose cleansers made from organic formulations, rather than chemicals.
Dust and dirt in your home don't just look bad, they can cause respiratory and eye irritation, and make certain conditions - like asthma and allergies - even worse. The 'dust' in your home contains a host of irritants besides simple dirt, including animal dander and hair, dust mites, insect debris, pollen, spores and more.
Vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to reduce dust and dirt in your home, but be aware that some vacuums can pull dust off the floor and exhaust it back into the air. Even uprights with HEPA filters can't capture and retain all pollutants. A central vacuum system can do a better job of removing contaminants from your home.
For example, the NuTone PurePower Series Central Vacuums capture debris and other micro-particles and exhaust them directly outside your home, rather than recirculating dust and dirt back into the indoor air. By eliminating 99.97 percent of micro particles, the central vacuum helps improve indoor air quality. Visit www.nutone.com/purepower.
A number of appliances in your home can give off noxious fumes like carbon monoxide, from a malfunctioning gas log fireplace or a kerosene space heater to a faulty central furnace. Depending on the kind of emission, these fumes can cause illness and even be lethal.
To minimize risks, keep all gas appliances in good repair. Have furnaces, heaters and fireplaces inspected at least once a year by a professional and be sure any appliance that burns fuel, such as a gas dryer or stove, properly vents outside the home. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home; many states, counties and municipalities now require them in new construction.
From installing a central vacuum system and CO detector to avoiding products that produce harmful emissions, you can do a lot to improve the quality of the air inside your home.