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About The Air We Breath

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The Air We Breath


Air Pollution Indoors

by Linda Mason Hunter

If someone in your house suffers from persistent headaches, prolonged colds, coughs, sore throats, repeated intestinal upsets, feelings of lethargy, or other chronic and medically inexplicable ailments, the villain may be your house. How do you know if your symptoms are caused by indoor air pollution? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have a runny nose?

  • Do symptoms go away when you leave the house and recur when you come back home?

  • Is more than one family member symptomatic, especially those who spend the most time at home?

  • Do symptoms diminish when windows and doors are opened?

  • Do symptoms get worse when the heat is turned on or when the humidity goes up?

  • Did you start feeling bad when you moved into a new house, remodeled your house, got new furnishings or draperies, sprayed with pesticides, or changed your activity level?

  • Did symptoms develop after energy conservation work was done on your house?

  • Do symptoms become most severe during warm, humid weather, or when the house is tightly sealed in cold weather?Getting rid of indoor pollutants doesn't have to be an expensive, time-consuming project. In most cases, solutions are simple and involve a combination of two procedures: (1) control or removal of the source, and (2) ventilation. Here are six basic methods for dealing with indoor air pollutants:

  • Remove the source. (For example, get rid of that kerosene heater.)

  • Isolate the source. (For example, encapsulate asbestos.)

  • Provide localized ventilation. (Like installing a range hood or a bathroom exhaust fan.)

  • Provide whole-house ventilation. (Open windows, install a whole-house fan.)

  • Regulate humidity. (Between 30 and 50% in winter and 40 and 60% in summer, depending on the part of the country in which you live, is best for the health of the house and its occupants.)

  • Purify the air. (Get plants, especially spider plants. Studies show that plants filter house air, much as they do in greenhouses.)Chances are that applying just one of these methods won't do a lot of good. A balanced combination--a little of this, a little of that is probably what's needed in most cases to clear the air.


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