Healthy Homes: Avoiding Indoor Pollution

by : Damon Chavez

There is a lot of talk in recent years about the concept of a "sick building". Obviously, buildings don't get sick. What this term refers to is a buildings ability to make its residents sick. This can happen for a variety of reason, but generally it all boils down to indoor air pollution which some people have allergic reactions to. The amount of indoor pollution depends on the materials a home is constructed with and how much ventilation it has.

I am not a doctor by any means, and have no idea why more and more people are having allergic reactions to their homes. But if you are a sensitive type, or have a compromised immune system, it might be a good idea to give some thought to avoiding sources of indoor pollution.

Some indoor air pollution comes from heating systems. Furnace ducts can become dusty or even moldy. When air blows through them it can spread mite feces and mold spores throughout the home. As disgusting as this sounds it is actually quite common. Ducts should be cleaned at least once a year, or anytime you notice a feeling of stuffed up sinuses whenever your furnace is on.

Laminate flooring, counter tops and cupboards can be the source of some problems as well. Formaldehyde and adhesives used to preserve and hold together particle or fiber-board can gas-off toxic fumes. These fumes can result in headaches and an overall weakened immune system. New carpets often produce these fumes, as well as harboring more dust than other floors. To avoid these fumes, choose natural flooring such as wood or tile, install tile or granite counters, and look for cupboards made of real wood instead of pressed-board.

There are a lot of chemical additives that are used to treat things like upholstery fabrics. If you find yourself getting head-aches ever since you got new living-room furniture and drapes, it could be from the flame retardant and stain resistant chemicals that these products are often treated with. Some manufacturers are now choosing safer, less toxic flame-retardants, and if you suspect you are sensitive, it might be best to look for these alternatives.

If you are planning to paint your home, look for low VOC paints. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, toxic chemicals which, again, can gas-off into the air. Low VOC paints are just that, paints made with few or no toxic compounds.

Sometimes, the building materials mentioned above are hard to avoid. In cases like this, ventilation may help. If you are moving into a brand-new home, try to give the home some time to release all its gasses before you move right in. Leave the doors and windows open as often as possible. Keep a fan on even when you aren't there. If you feel like you need extra help, look into the variety of air purifying devices available. These measures will help minimize the amount of indoor air pollution in your home.