5 easy things you can do today to improve your indoor air quality

Posted on Oct 21, 2013

It’s almost that time of year again… so get ready to start bundling up because wintertime is right around the corner (well where we live in the Great White North of Calgary anyway)!  One thing I don’t appreciate about winter is that I am not able to spend as much time outdoors or leave the windows open.  This means most of the air we breath comes from in our home.  Babies are especially susceptible to contaminants in our indoor air so with two little ones to entertain this winter I want to take extra care to improve our home’s air quality.

DIY formaldehyde test

We recently completed a major home renovation, adding a second story to a 100-year-old bungalow. When we moved back home I started getting sick with an assortment of respiratory illnesses.  This prompted me to start looking into ways of improving our indoor air.  I even ran a DIY formadehyde test to make sure our levels were within healthy range.   It is common for building materials to off gas for many years and they are often at their strongest when new so it is recommended to do air quality tests on new builds or after renovating. A common contaminant to look out for is formaldehyde since it is in many of the current standard building materials. The resulting symptoms of formaldehyde exposure include burning, dryness, redness and itching of eyes, nasal dryness, soreness, runniness; sore or dry throat, and sinus congestion or post-nasal drip. Secondary effects associated with these symptoms may include cough, chest tightness, excessive phlegm production, repeated sinus infections, eye infections and possibly bronchitis – See more at: http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.com/a-786-Are-You-Sick-from-Formaldehyde-Exposure#sthash.5vCeznjh.dpuf

Ain’t nobody got time for that! So try some of these quick easy ways to elevate your indoor air quality:

1 – Make sure your home has plenty of plants.  Here is a list of the top indoor air filtering plants compiled by NASA.  Get these little natural air filters working for you! Here is a picture of some peace lilies (aka Spathiphyllum) that I have in my 3 year olds room.

air filtering plant

2 – Use good quality air filters on your furnace that pull out dust, pollen, dust-mite debris, mold spores, pet dander, smoke, smog, bacteria, and particles that can carry viruses.  We picked up some Filtrete ones the other day on sale at Lowes but I have seen them at Homedepot, Walmart etc.

Filtrete Elite allergen reduction

3 – Make sure you have a good vacuum with HEPA and that you vacuum/dust as regularly as possible.  I know easier said than done right? Well here is just a little extra motivation: flame retardants are most often passed to people through the ingestion of household dust.  If you keep the dust down you are also keeping it out of your baby’s sensitive system. Some people might be wondering why we should be concerned about Flame retardants.  They contain known hormone disruptors, carcinogens, and chemicals with unknown safety profiles.  From personal experience I find best to follow the “Precautionary Principle” adopted by the law of the European union and avoid things that have yet to be proven dangerous.

4 – Stop using any scented, chemical laden cleaning products.  Not only will you save money you will probably also save yourself a lot of grief when it comes to health. There is a lot of greenwashing going on right now and it is hard to figure out what is actually natural so I mostly use Baking soda, vinegar, Nellie’s All-Natural laundry soda and different dilutions of  Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds depending on the job.

natural cleaning ingredients

5 – Use products like AFM Safe Seal to seal in formaldehyde.  Whenever a new piece of MDF begrudgingly enters my home, I use AFM safe seal to reduce the outgassing.  I try to avoid MDF but for example we are currently updating our kitchen and the solid wood island cabinets I ordered ended up having MDF pieces in them.  I could smell them right away but after coating the exposed MDF pieces with 3 coats of AFM safe seal the smell is essentially gone.

AFM safe seal

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