Builders have made great strides to make our homes energy
efficient. This has resulted in new problems with the quality of the air. We
typically spend 12 or more hours a day in our homes resulting in potentially
long term exposure to unhealthy air. Some homes have from 2 to 100 times more
polluted air than outside. This pollution can cause serious health problems.
Dust, smoke, pet dander, mold, mildew, and dust mites are all very common in
the typical home. We have researched this problem and found several tips to
improve air quality.
If your home is equipped with a fan forced furnace, have the fan running
continuously. This will draw air through the filters capturing harmful
Keep the filters clean, replacing them every 60 to 90 days. High efficiency
air filters will capture up to 30 time more pollutants then standard filters.
The spun organic/fiberglass filters are the poorest choice, so avoid the
reusable washable types. If you do not have a fan forced furnace, you might
consider using a portable air cleaner. The units have a huge range in costs
and effectiveness, read more about portable
air filter from the American Lung Association here.
Keep the kitchen vented when cooking, especially if you are cooking with
gas appliances. Combustion gases and burning foods can cause serious health
problems. All gas cooking appliances require fresh air to properly operate and
prevent accumulation of carbon
monoxide. Use the exhaust fans and/or keep a kitchen window open while
Wood heating sources:
If you have a fireplace or wood stove, it is recommended that a window be kept
open slightly to provide adequate combustion air, especially in a newer
tightly constructed home. Keep firewood stored outside. Green firewood can
release mold spores, which can contaminate your home. It is estimated that 1/3
of all Americans fail to do this making it one of the major contributors to
indoor air quality problems.
Excess moisture in the air can cause bioaerosols
to proliferate. Mold, mildew, fungus and dust mites are all organisms that can
cause health problems. Reducing the humidity/moisture sources and air handling
equipment maintenance are important steps to controlling these problems.
Bathrooms are one common source of moisture, especially showers. Always use
bath exhaust fans if present or open windows to remove excess moisture. Make
sure bath fans are vented outside the home and not into attics.
Inspect vents and keep them clean:
Often crawlspace vents can get clogged with landscaping materials, weeds,
grass clippings etc. Ventilation is very important to
keeping crawlspace moisture low. Beside health issues, excessive moisture in
crawlspaces is a conducive condition to wood destroying organisms. If you have
combustion appliances, check the air intake vents to assure they are not
clogged. Hot water heaters, furnaces, gas stoves etc are possible sources of
carbon monoxide without a good supply of fresh air. The American Lung
Association recommends annual service of all combustion appliances. At a
minimum install carbon
monoxide detectors on each level of your home.
"Bioaerosols are extremely
small living organisms or fragments of living things suspended in the air.
Dust mites, molds, fungi, spores, pollen, bacteria, viruses, amoebas,
fragments of plant materials, and human and pet dander (skin which has been
shed) are some examples. They cannot be seen without a magnifying glass or
Sandra A. Zaslow, Extension District Director, and Dr. Mary Beth Genter,
Extension Leader, Toxicology - North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service,