How to Reduce Air Pollution in Your Home

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You probably don’t think about air pollution in your home. Especially with wildfires nationwide and air quality warnings from Seattle to New York City, you may think that air pollution happens outside. You would be wrong.

Indoor air pollution is a serious problem affecting the health of millions of Americans daily. In many cases, contributors inside your home that you may not give much thought to are compromising your indoor air quality.

It’s even possible for unexplained health issues and persistent allergies to be tied to pollutants inside your home. Today’s Homeowner covers need-to-know information about how to improve indoor air quality in a home.

What is indoor air pollution?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality refers to the air quality inside and around buildings and we often discuss it in relation to the health and comfort of building occupants. Indoor air pollution happens when harmful pollutants are released inside or allowed to enter a building and cause a reduction in indoor air quality.

In most cases, these air-altering pollutants are toxins and fine particulate matter from a home’s various systems. The insidious thing about indoor air pollution is that the nature of home life means that people are exposed to this polluted air for long periods of time.

Poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases such as asthma,” according to the American Lung Association. In fact, respiratory issues are the most common symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollution, but many people never make the connection between unseen pollutants in their homes and various symptoms.

Broom sweeping dust bunny.

Photo credit: Canva.

Types of air pollution in your home

Below we’ll review the common causes of air pollution in homes.


A common allergen, pollen is an ultra-fine powdery substance composed of discharged parts of male flowers. When pollen enters the body, it can trigger the immune system to activate coughing, sneezing and other telltale signs of allergies.

Pet dander

Shed continuously from cats, dogs, birds, rodents and other pets, pet dander is a concoction of particles of skin, sweat, saliva and fur.

Dust mites

Known to trigger allergies and asthma, dust mites travel through homes feeding on dander and dead skin.

Mold and mildew

While mold and mildew are often thought of as similar, mold is a much bigger threat to health. Mildew is a fungal coating that grows naturally on damp, organic materials. Also a fungus, mold takes on a dust-like appearance when it forms in damp or rotting areas.

Bacteria and viruses

Bacteria and viruses that make people sick can be transmitted in the air in homes and other buildings with poor ventilation systems. These pathogens can circulate through indoor spaces.

Cigarette smoke

Environmental tobacco smoke can be a major component of indoor air pollution, according to a 2013 study. While it may seem like smoke simply dissipates, tobacco smoke particles actually settle in a home to drastically increase the concentration of pollutants.

Volatile organic compounds 

VOCs are invisible menaces given off by a wide variety of household products. Paint, cleaning products and even carpet all contain harmful chemicals capable of vaporizing into air.

Snake and pothos plants near bright window.

Photo credit: Canva.

How to reduce air pollution in your home

The checklist below will help you tackle indoor air pollution from multiple angles and improve air quality inside your home.

1. Choose natural cleaning products over chemical agents

Be a smart consumer by checking labels for toxic ingredients. Many common household cleaners contain formaldehyde, sodium hydroxide and other VOCs that vaporize inside your home. Chemicals used to clean your home will end up in the air.

2. Keep indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% to prevent mold growth

As shared above, the EPA’s safe range of 30% to 50% reduces mold growth. Consider getting a moisture alarm. A dehumidifier can help with humidity levels.

3. Regularly change air filters on your HVAC system

As part of preventative maintenance, change filters on your HVAC system once every one to three months based on your usage. Signing up for a home air filter replacement service can help keep you on track for this important task.

4. Use air-purifying plants to naturally filter the air

Plants can naturally help to purify toxins from your home. Spider plants, snake plants and ferns are great for this.

These are also wonderful plants for absorbing moisture in bathrooms.

5. Open windows and doors for fresh air circulation

Create natural ventilation by opening your windows to improve indoor air quality.

6. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture and pollutants

Exhaust fans quickly remove moisture, smoke and odors to create a healthier, fresher indoor environment.

7. Vacuum carpets and rugs regularly to remove dust and allergens

Carpets and rugs are exceptional at trapping pollutants and allergens. Dust mites, particle pollution, mold spores, cockroach allergens, pesticides and lead all settle into carpets.

As the American Lung Association points out, toxic gases from the air can also settle into carpets and pollutants can become airborne when you’re simply walking on the carpet. Children and pets are most vulnerable because they spend the most time on the floor.

So follow this guide on how often to clean your carpets.

8. Install a natural gas alarm

Natural gas is commonly used in homes for cooking and heating. However, some natural gas appliances can release VOCs and other harmful pollutants into the air. A natural gas alarm can help detect any leaks.

9. Keep pets groomed and limit their access to certain areas

Unfortunately, beloved pets can contribute to poor indoor air quality. First, change your HVAC filters more frequently if you have pets in your home. A dog can cut the lifespan of a filter in half.

You should also groom pets regularly to prevent dander and other allergens from flaking off of their bodies to become airborne. If possible, groom pets outside the home.

It may also be necessary to keep pets out of certain areas of the home. For example, pets lingering next to vents can cause particles to enter your home’s HVAC system.

This tool the Uproot Clean is great for getting pet hair out of carpets.

Uproot Clean tool. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

10. Store chemicals and other hazardous materials in a safe place

Limit risks for leaks and seepage that can introduce airborne materials into the air inside your home.

11. Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home

Carbon monoxide isan odorless, colorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. Exposure can be deadly to humans. While it’s true that air conditioning doesn’t create carbon monoxide, gas-powered systems that are part of an HVAC system can.

12. Properly ventilate appliances

If you have any questions about your home’s ventilation, call in an HVAC contractor to confirm that all of your ventilation for your furnace, stove and other appliances is up to current standards. Without proper ventilation, dangerous fumes, gases and smoke can all enter your home.

13. Avoid using aerosol sprays and air fresheners

While these things may make your home smell good, the National Capital Poison Center (Poison Control) warns that briefly inhaling a small amount of a spray air freshener might cause some coughing, choking or difficulty catching your breath. These irritating particles also stay trapped in the air in your home.

Poison Control cautions that air fresheners carry concerns that they increase indoor air pollution and pose health risks — particularly where there is long-term exposure. What’s more, air fresheners release volatile organic compounds into the air.

14. Clean bedding and linens regularly to reduce dust mites

Wash bedding at least once a week to keep the air quality around your bed high.

15. Use natural pest control methods instead of chemical pesticides

Chemical pesticides used to kill bugs and rodents can linger in the air in your home to cause risks to humans. Diatomaceous earth, essential oils and nontoxic tape traps are some common, nontoxic alternatives.

16. Test for and mitigate radon levels in the home

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that may lead to lung cancer according to the EPA. Radon testing should be done whenever you are moving into a new home or making renovations to an existing home.

Consider retesting every two to five years even if previous levels were normal. Radon levels can shift over time. Finally, spend the money to have a radon reduction system installed like we did in our home in Western Pennsylvania. It gave us great peace of mind.

Radon reduction system. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

17. Use a dehumidifier in areas with high humidity

If you live in an area with high humidity, a dehumidifier can keep mold and mildew levels in check.

18. Choose low-VOC paint and furniture

When shopping for paint and furniture, look for low-VOC products that can help greatly reduce lifetime exposure to VOCs. Some household materials containing VOCs may continue to off-gas for up to 20 years.

19. Keep your home well-maintained to prevent leaks and water damage

Most severe mold issues are caused by leaks and flooding in a home. Always inspect your home following storms or heavy rains.

Additionally, you should be on the lookout for signs of moisture in basements, next to bathroom fixtures, under kitchen cabinets and other places. Monitoring your home’s water meter is a great way to see if any unusual water usage could indicate a leak.

20. Consider installing an air purification system for added protection against indoor air pollutants

Finally, consider bringing in an HVAC expert to install an air purification system in your home. While this tool isn’t intended to replace all of the other best practices for good indoor air quality, a whole-house air purifier helps to remove dander, mold, odors, pollen and airborne viruses from your home.

Woman doctor using stethoscope on patient for respiratory illnesses.

Photo credit: Canva.

Health effects of indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution can produce acute and long-term health symptoms in people of all ages.

Short-term effects of exposure to pollutants

Most short-term symptoms mimic allergy or common cold symptoms. Coughing, runny nose, irritated eyes, headaches, dry skin, sore throat, dizziness, headaches and fatigue are all signs that something may be amiss with a home’s indoor air quality. For people with allergies or asthma, they may simply notice that their symptoms increase whenever they are in a particular space.

Long-term effects of indoor air pollution

We aren’t exactly sure just how devastating persistent exposure to poor indoor air quality is. However, the EPA links exposure to indoor air pollution over time to respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer. It’s believed that poor indoor air quality can also have negative cognitive effects — especially devastating for children.

Vulnerable populations and their increased risk of health problems

We know that certain populations are affected by indoor air pollution more than others. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences shares that children, older adults, individuals with pre-existing conditions, Native Americans and households of low socioeconomic status are generally exposed tohigher levels of indoor pollutants.

Early exposure to mold has been linked with increased risk of asthma in children. Additionally, the NIEHS states indoor exposures to air pollutants have been associated with impaired overall health and performance.

This story was produced by Today’s Homeowner and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media Scott Westerlund contritubed.

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