Tips on Reducing Indoor Air Pollution




by B.P. Loughridge, M.D.

Did you know that you breathe in and out about 23,000 times a day? Probably not, as most of us rarely think about the mysterious inner workings of our bodies. (Well, until something goes wrong, that is!) But when you do consider the fact that your respiratory system brings you, quite literally, the breath of life, you can see why you must pay special attention to the fuel that amazing system runs on. How clean is the air you breathe, anyway?

There's a whole new breed of illness brought on by bad air.

Research shows that the majority of environmental illnesses such as asthma, Legionnaire's disease and humidifier fever-along with building-related illness and hypersensitivity pneumonitis—are the direct result of breathing unclean air in our homes, our workplaces, and our schools. In fact, over the last 25 years, a link has actually been made between polluted indoor air and such notorious killers as coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular arterial disease, and lung cancer.

Cleaning won't put a dent in your dust mite population.

Want to get rid of some of the billions of microscopic creatures that share your living quarters? Dusting and vacuuming won't do it! (They only move the mites around.) Replace down pillows and wool blankets with synthetic ones... replace all carpeting with wooden, tile or vinyl flooring... keep your central air conditioning running or use a dehumidifier. You'll never eradicate the mighty mite-but you can make it feel less welcome!

Disturbing tidbits about the hearty cockroach.

Here are two interesting cockroach facts: For humans, a lethal dose of radiation is 800 rems or more; for the American cockroach, it's 67,500 rems. Furthermore, a cockroach can survive for a week after you cut off its head-only the inability to drink water deals it the fatal blow. It's this last tidbit—the roach's need for water—that offers us a clue as to how to deal with the vile pest. Dry it out! Empty pet water dishes at night, seal all pipes and fix any leaky appliances.

Mold-related maladies? Check your air ducts.

What you think of as hay fever-recurrent sinusitis, headaches with no apparent cause, asthma-could actually be mold fever. But there are ways to reduce the mold in homes, schools and office buildings. Here's one: Take a moment to examine your heating and air-conditioning ducts. Do you detect a musty odor? Is there any indication that moisture is present in or around the ducts or the unit? Think about it-do you remember the last time your changed the air filters? If these filters become wet, mold and mildew can begin sprouting within three hours, spewing mold spores everywhere the ventilation system reaches!

A few tips for keeping pollen in its place (outdoors!)

Plagued by pollen allergies? Try these tips at the height of sneezin' season!

·       Remove your shoes and clothing immediately upon arriving at home. Take a shower when you get home to remove any lingering pollen that has adhered to your skin and hair.

·       Hair is a magnet for pollen. Thoroughly wash your hair, especially before bedtime, to protect you from spreading microscopic pollen spores to your bedsheets and pillows. You may also want to try putting a leave-in conditioner on your hair before you venture outside (it'll keep pollen from attaching to your locks).

·       Invest in a portable, high-efficiency, multi-level filtration air cleaner-especially for use in your bedroom.

Preventive measures for allergy-prone "pet parents."

If a pet is causing health problems for you or a family member and you absolutely refuse to banish it from the house, take the following steps:

·       Create "pet-free" zones in the house; at the very least, the bedroom should remain pet free. Also, keep a high-efficiency multi-level filtration air cleaner in the bedroom.

·       Bathe your pet and wash its bedding and toys on a regular basis. Studies show that weekly bathing can reduce the level of allergens produced by pets as much as 85 percent.

·       Air rooms regularly, vacuum and mop floors, and wipe down walls to reduce  the levels of pet allergens. Change air-conditioning and furnace filters often. You may even want to place a layer of cheesecloth over room vents to keep pet hair from being blown about your home.

You can derail deadly environmental pollutants. Here's how:

·       If you suspect you have lead paint in your home, clean up all paint chips and thoroughly clean floors, windows and other surfaces. Hire a qualified lead abatement contractor to remove dangerous lead from your home.

·       Have your home tested for radon by a qualified expert.

·       Inspect all furnaces and combustible heaters each year to ensure that they are functioning properly and not emitting carbon monoxide. Never idle a car in your garage (even if the door is kept open). Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.


It simply isn't that difficult to dramatically improve the air you breathe every day. And the payoff can be huge. By taking a few easy steps and investing in a few affordable products, you can breathe easier today and ensure a healthier, happier tomorrow for you and your family."



From Every Breath You Take: A Doctor’s Guide to Reducing Indoor Air Pollution. Copyright © 2002 Dr. Bill Loughridge. Excerpted by arrangement with Health Design, Inc. $12.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.662.2470 or click here.