Clean Air in the Home for Healthier Kids

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Provided by guest contributor Amanda Henderson from Safe Children.

We know the sensation of what it’s like to draw a deep breath of clean air into our lungs. Air is essential for life, and clean air is especially essential for healthy living. Unfortunately, there are some places where the air is so full of pollutants and other particles that it’s unhealthy to breathe it -- and some of those places are our own homes.

The air in our homes can be filled with mold and pollen, pet dander, pesticides, odors from cleaning products, tobacco smoke, radon and carbon monoxide gasses, and so much more. What’s worse is that many of these indoor pollutants can affect our children’s health, causing frequent respiratory infections, allergic reactions, and even cause them to develop asthma and other lung diseases. Here are some tips to help improve the air quality in your home.

What Causes It?

Polluted air from the outside can make its way inside, and that includes pollen from trees. However, there are also areas where mold or mildew has spread, a defective furnace is leaking carbon monoxide, or a shedding pet is leaving dander behind. Even if you install new carpet, the smell from the fabric can be overpowering and the chemical used to treat it -- called a volatile organic compound (VOC) -- can irritate the eyes and lungs.

What Are Some Effects on Children?

Children are especially vulnerable to indoor air pollution, mainly because their respiratory systems are still developing. Mold is especially harmful since it is actually a fungus, and as you breathe it in, you’re breathing in fungal spores. Children exposed to it might exhibit a variety of symptoms as mild as a runny nose, hoarseness, and swollen lymph nodes to severe symptoms such as frequent coughing, wheezing, a fever, and fast breathing, which will require medical attention. It’s important to address these issues in a timely manner.

How to Reduce It

There are several ways to reduce indoor air pollution, some of which involve cleaning certain items that trap these allergens and other pollutants, such as your rugs, carpets, furniture upholstery, and curtains. You should also check for mold growing in damp places in your home, You can also use household plants and air purifiers, which can range from simple air filters for your HVAC system, to full-on air filtration and purification systems that can either be whole-home or portable. Either way, these air purifiers simply run the air through a series of filters and then circulate it back into the room.

Plants, meanwhile, clean the air through a process known as phytoremediation, where the gases in a room are absorbed by a plant’s leaves and roots. Other ways to reduce in-home pollutants include washing your bedsheets frequently and vacuuming your carpet regularly. The point is to never give indoor pollutants a chance to circulate through the air or land on surfaces they can stick to.

And while your HVAC system can be an essential tool in combating in-home pollution, it and other appliances that handle air flow also need to be cleaned and maintained, and their filters checked and replaced frequently. Think of it this way: if it moves air, it’s probably also moving the in-home pollutants.

We normally spend up to 90 percent of our time inside our homes, which means we’re probably breathing in air that’s as polluted as what we breathe outside. To combat it, use air filtration and lots of plants, keep furniture dusted and carpets vacuumed, and use clean filters in anything that moves the air in your house. That way you and your children can breathe a lot easier.