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Ten Hidden Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

With all the media attention on the thinning ozone layer and increasing carbon emissions, it can be all too easy to think you should stay indoors. But research reveals that your home air can be just as toxic—or even more so. In this post, learn about 10 common sources of indoor air pollution and how to remedy them.

Source #1: Air fresheners and candle scents

Candle Indoor Air Pollution

Those lovely sachets in your sock drawer, the air fresheners you spray to diffuse bathroom odors, the candle you burn to feel more holiday cheer—all of these and other scent sources can emit toxins. And some of these toxins are known carcinogens that can harm children, pets, and adults.

How to remedy it: Use essential oils in diffusers or natural soy-based candles to scent your home. Citrus peel or cinnamon sticks in boiling water is another great option. You can also bring some natural greenery indoors—houseplants are natural air purifiers.

Source #2: Commercial cleaning supplies

Cleaning supplies indoor air pollution

From surface sprays to detergents, dryer sheets to toilet disinfectants, many commercial cleaners have a long list of toxic chemicals printed right on their label.

How to remedy it: You can do a lot with just a few non-carcinogenic natural cleaners such as baking soda, white vinegar, and water. There are plenty of free online recipes to teach you how to make your own cleaning supplies that are truly safe to use. You can also find all-natural and non-toxic cleaning supplies in stores, especially in the organic and natural foods section.

Source #3: Carpet gasses

carpet indoor air pollution

If you have recently installed new carpet and are marveling at the "new carpet smell," you might want to stand back—or open a window. The gasses are just as toxic as those emitted from a new car.

How to remedy it: A vacuum equipped with a HEPA air filter can vacuum up the majority of the toxins contributing to "new carpet smell."

Source #4: Your stove and oven

Cooking on a stove

Cooking smoke is an incredibly toxic air pollutant that has been known to be fatal to pets and young children. The fumes from gas stoves and self-cleaning ovens are equally deadly.

How to remedy it: If you don't have a vent installed above your stove, this is an excellent way to suck those dangerous fumes out of your kitchen before they can affect your family. A low-budget alternative is to use a floor fan and open windows when you use the stove and oven.

Source #5: Mold

wall mold

No one wants to contemplate the presence of the dreaded mold in their own home. But the truth is, many homes have at least traces of mold from time to time, and it’s especially prevalent in older homes in humid or damp climates. Unfortunately, some of the molds found in homes also attract dust mites, which can exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms and breathing difficulties.

How to remedy it: Change air filters frequently in both your HVAC and furnace system. Safely spot-treat any areas where mold is suspected or known to exist.

Source #6: Lotions, potions, gels and perfumes

perfume bottles

They might smell like warm cinnamon rolls or spring rose gardens, but have you ever stopped to wonder how manufacturers are able to bottle up all those different scents? (Refer back to Source #1 for more).

How to remedy it: By choosing organic, vegan, cruelty-free, and baby products, you can easily sidestep most or all of the toxins found in commercial beauty and personal care products. However, be sure to double check the labels: many products are labeled as natural but in fact still contain harmful substances.

Source #7: Tap water

shower water

The level of toxicity in tap water can vary greatly from one location to the next. But chlorine, for example, is a common additive found in most tap water. Showering or bathing in chlorinated water sends toxins into your body through your lungs and pores, leaving you less rejuvenated than you might expect.

How to remedy it: You can buy and install filters for your home fixtures that eliminate chlorine and other toxins added to tap water.

Source #8: Non-stick cookware

non stick pan

The chemicals used to treat your cookware that make it "non-stick" can also be deadly to small pets and toxic to kids and adults alike.

How to remedy it: While there is no need to toss brand-new non-stick cookware if you have just purchased it, be quick to throw it out when it starts to show signs of wear and tear. Then switch to stainless steel cookware instead.

Source #9: Adhesives and glues

Glue

If you are using glues or adhesives in projects or crafts, you are letting neurotoxins and other dangerous chemicals out into the air.

How to remedy it: Choose water-based adhesives and glues and be sure you open a window and have a fan blowing while you work.

Source #10: Paints, thinners, primers, strippers

Paint

DIY home improvement projects may be all the rage, but these products unleash VOCs—known toxins—into the air.

How to remedy it: Wear a mask over your nose and mouth while painting and choose low-VOC products whenever possible. Also be sure the space is well-ventilated during and after your project.

By understanding where the major indoor air pollutants are emanating from and taking steps to reduce or control them, you make your home a much more safe and healthy space in which to live and breathe.

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