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Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home

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Check household furnishings

  • Many furnishings contain formaldehyde and other organic compounds. When shopping for new furniture or cabinets, try to buy those that are made of solid hardwood, not particleboard, which usually has a wood-veneer finish. The wood veneer may be attached with glue that contains formaldehyde.
  • If someone living in your home has asthma, replace carpet with tile or wood flooring. If carpeting is necessary, use a product with a short nap, or use area rugs that can be cleaned regularly.
  • If you are remodeling, use gypsum board, plaster, or real wood for walls. Plastic or wood-fiber paneling may emit formaldehyde.
  • If your house was built before 1978, the woodwork or other surfaces may be covered with lead paint. You can have the paint tested for lead. Do not sand or strip off the lead paint. But you can cover surfaces with wallpaper or other building material. Call an expert if you have to remove lead paint.

Be careful with household products

  • Take care when using cleaning products, paints, solvents, and pesticides. Try not to use them inside the house. If you must use them inside, use a fan to blow strong odors and fumes out of your home. Be aware that paint can release trace gases for months after you apply it. Try to use paint without volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Use nontoxic glue to install flooring or carpet.
  • If you strip furniture inside, use products that do not contain methylene chloride. And make sure you have enough ventilation.
  • Do not mix cleaning products. Consider using natural cleaners, such as vinegar, lemon juice, boric acid, or baking soda.
  • Chemicals found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs, and other deodorizing products may be harmful to the lungs.2 Use alternatives. For example, baking soda absorbs odors and can be used instead of an air freshener.
  • Don't keep items you're recycling—such as newspapers, rags, cans or bottles—inside your home. They can be sources of toxic vapors.
  • Install a radon monitor in your basement.
  • Make sure sump basins are sealed and vented to the outdoors.

Improve air ventilation

  • Make sure your house gets an adequate supply of fresh air.
  • Place an air filter in your bedroom, and clean it every 3 months.
  • Air conditioning helps keep pollen and other allergens out of your home, but filters must be kept clean.
  • Change furnace and air conditioner filters every 2 to 3 months.
  • Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms to vent air outdoors.
  • Have older homes checked for asbestos insulation on furnaces and pipes. Make sure you use an inspector familiar with asbestos issues.
  • Clean humidifiers and dehumidifiers often.
  • Make sure outdoor fresh-air intake vents for ducted heating and air conditioning systems are located above ground and are upwind from sources of contaminated air, such as idling cars or trucks.
  • Have ducts for forced-air furnaces cleaned, if needed.
  • Make sure ducts are sealed to prevent air leakage and to keep contaminants from coming into your home.
  • Check that plumbing drains in your home have full water traps and are connected to a venting system. A sewer smell coming from a sink or water appliance is a sign of poor ventilation.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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