Cleaning, Cavorting Raise Indoor Air Pollution
Household Hint: Open Windows While Cleaning, Dancing Indoors
March 11, 2004 -- Cleaning your house increases indoor air
That doesn't sound right. But a new study by environmental
engineer Andrea Ferro, PhD, and colleagues suggests that normal household tasks
kick up dangerous dust particles.
Ferro's team placed particle detectors in a Redwood, Calif.
house. It wasn't a dirty house: A professional cleaning service visited once a
week. And it wasn't full of dust collectors. There weren't any
cloth-upholstered furnishings, and the hardwood floors were covered only by
thin area rugs.
But the researchers found that normal cleaning activities --
dry dusting, vacuuming, making the bed, folding clothes, and folding blankets
-- sent significant amounts of small-particle pollution into the air. So did
normal activities such as simply walking around the house and sitting on the
"The result that was most surprising to me was that just
walking around can resuspend almost as much dust as vacuuming," Ferro says
in a news release.
Even having fun upped indoor air pollution. The worst offender
in this category: solo dancing on a rug.
"Probably that's best described as solo salsa," Ferro
says. "Luckily, I did not take any videotape."
The good news was that dancing on a bare wood floor had much
less effect on the air.
Cut Air Pollution at Home
The serious side of the study is that people spend 90% of their
time indoors. Indoor air quality is important to health yet often is worse than
outdoor air. Ferro has some advice.
"One study estimates that about two-thirds of household
dust is tracked in from outdoors," she says. "Therefore, leaving shoes
at the door can make a big difference in reducing the particle reservoir on the
Leave windows open when cleaning. Other ways to air out the
house: Turn on ventilation fans or an air conditioner.
Always increase ventilation when cooking -- especially
Keep the house well aired when painting or doing other
Limit the use of toxic household products such as
Install non-carpet flooring.
Ferro's report appears in the March 15 issue of
Environmental Science & Technology. She led the study while earning
her doctoral degree at Stanford University. Ferro is now at Clarkson University
in Potsdam, N.Y.