Allergens and Indoor Air Quality
You may not have thought about the quality of the air you breathe in your home, but we have. There are many sources of indoor air pollution in homes such as chemical emissions from wallpaper, carpets and furniture. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to improve indoor air quality as well as to reduce many allergens that become trapped in our homes due to today’s airtight construction.
Avoiding Allergens in the Home
No matter what the time of year, allergens can be present in our homes. While they are difficult to remove completely, we can take steps to limit their impact.
Dust or House Mites
If dust or house mites are a problem in your home, it’s important to:
- Vacuum carpets and floors regularly to limit the buildup of dust and dirt. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter helps keep dust from escaping into the air (HEPA filters are capable of trapping particles as small as a tenth of a micrometer).
- Wash bedding, including comforters and quilts, regularly. Draperies and blinds should be washed or vacuumed several times a year.
- Clean or change the filters in your home’s heating and cooling system regularly so that allergens and dust particles are not recirculated throughout your home.
- When replacing your washer or dryer, consider purchasing units that have sanitizing or allergen reducing features, such as those certified to NSF Protocol P351.
Mold is another allergen found in many homes. It can grow any place where moisture is allowed to accumulate, including basements, attics and bathrooms. Mold growth often looks like spots, can be many different colors and may have an earthy or musty smell. If you find mold growing in your home:
- Clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. If you plan to clean up the mold yourself, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a commercial product specifically intended for treating mold or scrubbing the affected area with a solution of no more than one cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Wear protective gloves and eye wear and provide adequate ventilation. Soft building materials such as drywall are not cleanable and will need to be replaced.
To reduce the potential for mold growth:
- Make sure your attic is properly ventilated. Fix any roof, window or pipe leaks promptly.
- Install a properly vented exhaust fan in each bathroom. Let the bathroom fan continue to run for about 10 minutes after showering to help remove excess water and steam from the bath area.
Many cleaning products contain added fragrances or other ingredients that can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. When purchasing cleaning products:
- Read the label and be sure to follow product usage instructions. Avoid using products that display warnings on the label, such as "caution" or "use in well-ventilated area” as well as those that contain added fragrance.
- In the U.S., consider using green cleaners reviewed under the EPA’s Design for the Environment program. Products bearing the DfE logo are checked to make sure they use ingredients that line up on the "green" end of the health and environmental spectrum but without sacrificing product performance. Visit the EPA’s website to learn more about their Design for the Environment program.