How to Detox Your House
By Patricia Greco
Wipe out mold, smoke, dust, and other invisible health hazards that have been trapped in your home all winter.
It was your cocoon for the cold season, but your airtight home could be harming your family's health. By shutting the windows all winter, you also shut off ventilation and air circulation. That means you kept the house warm, but allowed irritating and sometimes toxic particles to build up.
The lack of ventilation in homes is one major cause of indoor air pollution, experts say. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution is two to five times worse than outdoor air pollution. And the at-home version can cause or aggravate asthma and allergies, which are on the rise in the United States.
You can't fix outdoor pollution (at least, not on your own). But you can detox your home. Start now by following the easy steps in our room-by-room guide.
The Biggest Problems
In your kitchen:
Gas and fumes. You've probably sautéed lots of chicken and baked a few pounds of lasagna since your last spring-cleaning. And with every meal cooked, your kitchen was polluted with a little bit of smoke, soot, and possibly carbon monoxide (if you own a gas stove or range). A certain degree of CO pollution is normal in homes, and the typical level produced by a gas stove — 5 to 15 parts per million (ppm) — isn't likely to make your family sick. But that assumes the burners have been properly adjusted. If they're not set properly (meaning they don't receive the right oxygen-to-fuel ratio), the level of CO, an odorless gas, can reach a danger point. That's why it's important to install a detector — it sounds within four hours if CO levels reach 70 ppm; within 50 minutes if levels get as high as 150 ppm; and within 15 minutes if levels are 400 or more ppm.
Inhaling high levels of carbon monoxide in your home can be fatal; being exposed to even low levels can cause fatigue, headaches, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, and other flulike symptoms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 15,000 people go to the emergency room each year due to nonfatal CO poisoning.
Chemical fumes emitted by certain cleaning products can also cause health problems: Exposure to elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in some sprays can result in eye, nose, and throat irritation. (Research shows that another VOC, used in solid deodorizers like air fresheners, may lead to lung damage.)
Your Detox Duties
Check your burners: If flames are yellow-tipped, that may mean your stove is releasing too much CO. If you see yellow consistently, call your manufacturer to find out if your burners should be readjusted.