When the dangers associated with indoor air pollution are considered, the importance of keeping the air in your home as pure as possible becomes obvious. Fortunately, there are a few relatively easy steps that you can take which will result in a noticeable improvement in your home's air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends a three-prong method of reducing indoor air pollution: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners. Let us look at each of these three methods in turn.
Sometimes the best way to deal with pollution is to cut it off at the source. Some sources are fairly easy to reduce or eliminate.
Perhaps the quintessential example of source control is cutting down on environmental tobacco smoke, also known as "second-hand smoke." This is a particularly preventable form of indoor air pollution that can cause asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, and other major health problems, not just for the smoker but for anybody who lives with him or her. If you do not want to quit smoking, you can still decide to only smoke outside, and to ask those you live with and your guests to do the same. That way, you are not continuously inhaling the unhealthy by-products of smoking.
Here are some other methods of source control:
Sometimes it is necessary to bring fresh air into the house and expel air that has become contaminated. Throw open the windows the next time there is good weather. If you have a ventilator in your bathroom or your kitchen, use them regularly. Turn on fans to increase circulation.
Sometimes you will need to immediately increase ventilation. We mentioned above, for instance, that it is preferable to use non-chemical means to combat household pests. However, if you do need to use insect spray, immediately open the nearest window and turn on the fan if at all possible, so that the unhealthy fumes do not stay in your house. The same goes for other chemicals, like cleaning fluids.
Even when these steps are taken, though, there will still be air pollution in your home. No matter how hard you try, you cannot eliminate all the sources of the pollution, and ventilation can only do so much. But happily there is another easy and effective way to reduce the unhealthy particles and minimize the health risks that they bring: purchasing a quality air filter. Air filters will handle pollution that an unaided human could never hope to eliminate on his or her own, and are an excellent way to ensure that the air you breathe in your home is safe and clean.
Along with controlling the sources of pollution and providing adequate ventilation in your home, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission both endorse the use of air purifiers to clean the home, but they caution that all filters are not created equal. Therefore, the key to achieving proper air filtration is choosing the correct device.
The effectiveness of air purifiers vary from model to model. Both the EPA and the USCPS say that the value of a filter should be measured based on two factors:
Efficiency is usually measured as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more unwanted material the filter pulls from the air that goes through it. The second factor, airflow rate, is measured in cubic feet per minute. This is probably the more important factor to remember, because while it is obvious that the higher the efficiency, the better, the smart buyer will consider his or her needs when it comes to airflow rate. The air volume of a room can be measured by multiplying three numbers: the length and width of the floor and the height of the ceiling.
Air filters, like source control and improved ventilation, are not cure-alls, nor are they an excuse to avoid taking other measures to purify the air of your home as described above. The filters used in homes are usually those that focus on removing particles from the air. Other types of filters exist, but are not nearly as common. Ozone-generating air cleaners are also available on the market, but are not recommended, as ozone itself is a health hazard. Standard particle-removing air filters are most effective against small particles. Larger particles tend to stay in the air for shorter periods of time before settling onto the floor or some other surface. They may be stirred up again by human activity, but gravity will soon pull them down once more. Therefore, air filters are less capable of ridding them from your home than smaller particles.
Please note also that air filters are currently not recommended by the EPA to control radon or its decay products, though more research is being planned in this area.
Despite these caveats, however, air filters can work wonders for indoor air quality, and can leave your home significantly cleaner than it was without one, no matter what other steps you take. Air filters are therefore an important component in improving the air quality of your house or apartment.