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Creating a Healthy Home - Indoor ParticlesHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Help reduce airborne particles in your home
Particles like mold spores, dust mites and their debris, pet dander and pollen are just some types of particles that can travel through the air undetected. Here are some suggestions for helping to reduce these particles from the air in your home.

  1. If you have pets, bathe and groom them often. Minimize their access to carpeted areas and bedrooms of anyone in the house with sensitivity to pet dander. Pet dander (minute scales of animal skin) can aggravate allergies and asthma.
  2. Fabric window coverings are like magnets for dust. Use window shades made of plastic, wood or other washable materials for easy cleaning.
  3. Mold can be found in the soil of houseplants, so check them often. If mold growth is evident, the plants may need to be re-potted or kept outdoors.
  4. Prohibit smoking in the home. Homes with one or more smokers often have particle levels several times higher than outdoor levels.
  5. Place allergen-resistant covers over mattresses and pillows. Feather pillows and down comforters are not recommended for individuals with sensitivity to feathers or down materials. Bedding should be washed every week, in water that is at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit (hot setting).
  6. Reduce indoor humidity to less than 50%. This may vary from region to region so be sure to consult with your personal physician for an appropriate recommendation. This level will help reduce - and potentially eliminate - mold growth and dust mites. However, if humidity levels are too low, viruses and bacteria in the home can spread more easily or aggravate respiratory issues.
  7. Never store more than a few pieces of firewood indoors. Drying green firewood inside your home can introduce airborne particles into your entire house.
  8. Keep trees and shrubs at least three feet away from the perimeter of a home. Tree and shrub roots can give surface water an easy route into a basement, which can lead to mold growth.
  9. Remember that a little common sense goes a long way. Regularly clean places where allergy-causing mold is likely to grow or dust mites might accumulate, including the kitchen, bathroom and basement.

Creating a Healthy Home - Moisture in the homeHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Control moisture in the home
Excess levels of moisture - or relative humidity - provide ideal environments for mold and dust mites. Elevated levels of moisture can also contribute to structural damage within a home's walls, attic, foundation, and exterior.

  1. Daily activities in the kitchen and bathroom can introduce large amounts of water vapor and other contaminants into the home. Install and maintain intakes where they can capture the most moisture, and make sure that bath vents exhaust air outdoors and not into your attic or other interior space.
  2. When using an exhaust fan, make sure there is a good air supply. If unsure, check with a qualified technician. Exhaust fans can draw a large amount of air from the home. This negative pressure can reverse the flow of combustion gases with fuel burning appliances. This reversal can draw combustion gases, including carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and water vapor into the home.
  3. The exterior of a home should be well-caulked - especially around windows and vents - to prevent water leaks. Without caulking, mold growth and structural problems may occur.
  4. If you are building a home, insist that your builder install a proven waterproofing system, drain tile and vapor retarder to your home's foundation. A water-managed foundation can greatly improve indoor air quality by preventing problems associated with moisture.
  5. Make sure your home's roof and windows are in good shape. Water leaks, condensation and elevated levels of humidity may not be visible, but moisture in interior wall spaces can encourage mold growth and structural degradation.
  6. Ideally, your bathroom fan should be on a separate timer switch so it can continue removing moisture after you have turned out the light. Moisture generated by showering and bathing can enter bathroom walls and cause both fungal growth and structural decay.
  7. Route water away from your home's foundation. Keep gutters and drains clean and in good repair. Be sure downspouts have a five percent slope to carry water away from your foundation.
  8. Water-damaged carpeting can be a source for mold and other harmful contaminants. It should be removed. Consider replacing it with smooth surface flooring, such as tile, wood or vinyl.
  9. Elevated levels of humidity can cause moisture problems, including window condensation, structural rot and mold growth. To help control humidity and remove excess moisture levels, consider installing a mechanical ventilation system, exhaust fans or a dehumidification system.
  10. Insulation, installed with a good air/vapor retarder in the wall cavities, attics and foundation, can help prevent water condensation problems. Insulation keeps warm, moist air from meeting cold surfaces and forming condensation, which can contribute to mold growth in the wall.

Creating a Healthy Home - Combustion PollutantsHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Help reduce potential problems with "combustion pollutants"
Combustion pollutants are gases or particles that come from burning organic materials such as wood, natural gas or charcoal. Combustion pollutants that may be present in homes include carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Exposure to combustion pollutants can lead to serious health problems, ranging from headaches and breathing difficulties to death. Common sources can include furnaces, gas stoves, fireplaces and candles.

  1. Install a carbon monoxide detector with a digital display in your home. Check it regularly. Carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, can go undetected until health problems occur. Short-term and long-term exposure to high levels of CO can cause death.
  2. Make sure all fuel-burning appliances - such as your furnace, hot water heater and gas range - are in good working order and that they are examined annually by a professional. Make sure the professional checks to see that the air intake is adequate and the exhaust system is operating properly.
  3. Select sealed-combustion or power-vented heating appliances whenever possible. They have their own air supply and exhaust directly to the home's exterior. Kerosene space heaters and unvented gas heaters are possible health hazards and should never serve as the primary source of heat.
  4. Keep wood-burning stove emissions to a minimum. Make certain that doors in wood stoves are tight fitting.
  5. When a wood fire is burning, a window should always be kept open - especially in a tightly sealed, energy-efficient house.
  6. If you install a natural gas or wood-burning fireplace, choose one that draws outside air into the combustion chamber and has sealed glass doors.
  7. Orange or sputtering flames in a gas-burning furnace or stove are dangerous sources of carbon monoxide. If cleaning the furnace or stove does not eliminate the problem, call the gas company or a qualified service technician.
  8. Check flues and chimneys for blockage and cracks that allow fumes to enter the home. Smoke particles and soot from a fireplace can enter into the living space if a fireplace is not properly vented. Make sure the chimney has a good draft up the flue and is clear of debris.

Creating a Healthy Home - Household FurnishingsHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Check household furnishings
Selecting home furnishings can be a challenge if any residents are sensitive to chemicals used in their manufacture or preservation. Many furnishings contain formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can produce chemical emissions.

  1. When selecting cabinets and furniture, try to choose products made of solid hardwood, not particleboard. Cabinets made from particleboard have a wood veneer finish glued to them. The particles and the glue may contain formaldehyde that can act as an irritant. If purchasing furniture that contains particleboard, consider sealing it with a no-or low-VOC sealant.
  2. Smooth-surface flooring materials, such as tile, vinyl and wood, are easy to clean and harbor relatively few particles. They may be your best choice if someone in your household has allergies or asthma.
  3. If you have carpeting, a product with a short nap will be easier to clean. Area rugs and carpets that can be removed for frequent cleaning may be your best choice.
  4. Hang dry-cleaned items, like draperies, on an outdoor clothesline to air out cleaning solvents before bringing them inside.
  5. When remodeling, use gypsum board, plaster or real wood for walls. Plastic or wood fiber paneling may emit formaldehyde and other VOCs.
  6. Carpet is a hiding place for many small particles such as dust, pet dander, and mold. Additionally, vacuuming can redistribute many of these particles back into the air. Use a vacuum with a high-efficiency filtration system to keep those problem particles in the vacuum cleaner.

Creating a Healthy Home - Household ProductsHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Use household products with caution
Cleaning agents, personal care products, paints, hobby products, solvents and pesticides make our lives easier, but they can also be sources of potentially hazardous chemicals. The harmful components in these products can cause dizziness, nausea, allergic reactions, and eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation.

  1. Use mechanical ventilation to exhaust strong odors or fumes from the home. Perfume, room deodorizer, cleaning agents and even talcum powder can trigger upper respiratory allergic reactions. Refrain from using products with strong scents or keep them at low levels through adequate ventilation.
  2. All paints release trace amounts of gases - even months after application. Try using non- or low-VOC-emitting paints on walls and air out the room during and after painting.
  3. When installing flooring materials, use non-toxic adhesives or mechanical fasteners.
  4. Try to avoid using aerosol spray products. Substitute pump-type products whenever they are available.
  5. When performing operations that involve volatile materials, such as gluing wood or cleaning metal, do so outdoors or a well-ventilated garage. When stripping furniture indoors, consider using products that do not contain methylene chloride.
  6. Use low-toxicity cleaning products whenever available. Many household cleaning products are significant VOC generators. In addition, many have not been tested for health effects, unless they are intended for human consumption. Consider natural cleaners like lemon juice, boric acid, baking soda and vinegar.
  7. Don't permit recyclable items such as newspapers, rags, cans and bottles to accumulate in your living space. These products can be sources of toxic vapors, unpleasant odors and bacteria. Store them in a covered area outdoors and recycle frequently.
  8. In older homes, woodwork is often coated with lead paint. Make sure woodwork paint is well-maintained. Wipe away paint chips with a damp rag so that children don't ingest them. Be aware that stripping or sanding older, painted woodwork can release particles into your indoor air environment, which may then be inhaled. Consult an expert if lead paint needs to be removed.
  9. Repair cracks in basement floors, as they can be a source of moisture and radon. Install a radon monitor and have it analyzed after six months to see if your home has a problem.
  10. Open sump basins can also be an entry point for radon and other soil gases. Cover and seal the sump basin and vent it to the home's exterior.

Creating a Healthy Home - Air FiltrationHow can you create a healthy home environment? Just select one or more of the following topics to find out more:

Indoor particles
Moisture in the home
Combustion pollutants
Household furnishings
Household products
Air filtration


Improve air filtration
Mechanical ventilation is a key component in creating and maintaining a healthier home. Filtrete® filters from 3M, can help further improve indoor air quality.

  1. Install air conditioning so windows and doors aren't the only source of fresh air. By keeping windows and doors closed and air conditioning on, you can help prevent the entry of pollens and other outdoor allergens into the home.
  2. Change furnace and air conditioning filters every two or three months, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
  3. Install and use exhaust fans that are vented to the outdoors in kitchens and bathrooms. Also vent clothes dryers outdoors. Eliminating the resulting moisture helps reduce mold growth.
  4. Older homes may have furnaces or pipes covered with asbestos-containing insulating materials. Have your home inspected by someone familiar with asbestos issues. Removal is usually necessary only if the asbestos-containing insulation is coming apart. If removal is necessary, it should be done by a professional contractor.
  5. Home humidifiers and dehumidifiers can be breeding grounds for mold and bacteria. Make sure they are maintained and cleaned often.
  6. If you have a ducted HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system, make sure that the fresh air intake on the exterior of the home is located well above ground and upwind from any local contamination sources, such as idling motor vehicles.
  7. Consider purchasing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). Operating an ERV reduces heating and cooling costs in the home while providing a continuous supply of fresh air and whole-house ventilation.
  8. Forced air ductwork requires occasional maintenance and cleaning to make sure it does not become the source of indoor air pollution. If you hire a service to clean your ductwork, ask them if they can provide verification that the residents of the home are protected from exposure to dislodged pollutants and chemicals used during the cleaning process.
  9. It is important that all ducts be tightly sealed to prevent air leakage and contaminants from entering into and circulating throughout a home.
  10. Check your plumbing system to make sure that all drains have full water traps and a connection to a venting system. This keeps toxic sewer gas from entering your home through the drain system. Sewer gas odor coming from a sink or water appliance is a sure sign of improper trapping and venting.
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Tips for improving air quality in and around your home at The Lung Association - Your Healthy Home.