(BPT) - Think about how much time you and your family spend inside versus outside. From your home to the car to work and to school, it’s not uncommon that the majority of your day is spent indoors. This modern phenomenon means increased exposure to indoor air pollution. Fortunately, with a few smart, proactive steps, you can help protect yourself and your family.
People vastly underestimate the time they spend inside, assuming just four hours, when in actuality they are inside more than 21 hours each day, according to The Indoor Generation report by The VELUX Group. The Indoor Generation refers to a growing number of people who spend the vast majority of their time indoors — currently 90 percent of their days on average, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to people spending more time inside, homes are being built and sealed tightly to meet the demand for increased energy efficiency. This is great for energy efficiency but not so great for fresh air exchange, which is necessary to maintain healthy indoor air quality. The resulting polluted air is locked in and can have health consequences: Moldy and damp air inside the home can increase the risk of asthma by 40 percent. Poor indoor air quality can contribute to irritated eyes, nose and throat, headaches and fatigue. Long-term indoor air pollution can even lead to the development of respiratory diseases and heart disease.
How to improve indoor air quality
Everyday activities, such as cooking, cleaning, showering, burning candles and drying clothes, contribute to polluted indoor air. Pollutants coming from toxic materials, such as plastic toys, synthetic furnishings, cleaning solvents and building materials, can also worsen indoor air quality. Adding natural light and fresh air to your home can help combat the dangers of modern indoor living.
Here are seven smart steps homeowners can take to make their living conditions healthier:
Vent air while cooking
Always remember to turn on the hood fan while you're cooking and open nearby windows and skylights. Try cooking oils with higher smoke points, so you produce fewer fumes. Palm, peanut, grapeseed, avocado and sunflower oils all have smoke points higher than 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Install a skylight
Adding a skylights is a simple renovation project that drastically improves your home’s health. One option is Velux No Leak Solar Powered Fresh Air Skylights, which bring in natural light and open to create fresh air flow. The latest models come with a remote control to open and close the skylight and its blinds. Learn more at whyskylights.com.
Use natural air flow
Hot air rises and cool air stays closer to the ground. You can take advantage of this natural air exchange in your home by opening a skylight or window higher in your home while also opening one below it or on a lower level. As fresh, cool air is pulled in, the warmer, polluted air will escape at the top.
Avoid burning candles
Candles provide ambiance and often a pretty scent, but they can have a negative effect on indoor air quality. Try opting for beeswax candles, which produce fewer airborne toxins. Alternatively, check out battery-operated candles that look close to the real thing.
Create a home and pet cleaning schedule, and stick to it as much as possible. Vacuuming can help eliminate dust and dander.
Dry clothes outside
When the weather is nice outside, take a cue from your grandparents, and dry clothes outside naturally with the sunshine and breeze. Eliminating use of the dryer or dryer sheets decreases air-polluting fumes and moisture buildup in your home. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of line-dried clothing?
Make home airing a daily habit
Even if the weather only allows you to air out your home for a few minutes, it can make a world of difference. Make a habit of opening windows and skylights daily. If you think you’ll forget, just set an alarm on your phone to remind you.