Reducing Your Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution
We spend most of our time indoors where air pollutant levels are often higher than outdoors. Chemicals released from consumer products, gas appliances, building materials, smoking, and furniture can all contribute to this problem. Exposure to indoor air pollutants can result in a range of health effects, such as eye and throat irritation, asthma and other respiratory diseases and cancer. The most effective way to protect your family and yourself from indoor air pollution is to prevent or minimize the release of pollutants indoors in the first place. Ventilation with outdoor air can be very effective, too.
Here are some specific measures that you can take to reduce your exposures:
- When purchasing building materials or furnishings made with composite wood such as particleboard or plywood, look for a label that California Phase II Compliant, or TSCA Title VI Compliant.
- If your kitchen range hood vents to the outdoors, always turn on range hoods when cooking, and set it to the highest fan speed when possible.
- Use a medium- or high-efficiency filter, if your system can accept such a filter, preferably those rated as MERV 13 or higher, in your central forced air system to remove airborne particles.
Other measures to reduce your exposure to indoor air pollution include:
Purchasing and using products safely
- When purchasing carpet, cushion and adhesive products, look for the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Green Label Plus logo.
- Consider purchasing cleaning products that are safer for human health and the environment. For more information on how to choose safer products, check SaferChoice and GreenSeal.
- Using formaldehyde-free products such as solid wood, gypsum board, stainless steel, adobe, bricks, and tile for construction or renovation when possible.
- Airing out new carpet or furniture before bringing them indoors for as long as possible.
- Restricting cigarette smoking, vaping, and marijuana smoking to outdoor areas away from doors and windows.
- Minimizing the use of air fresheners and other strongly scented products.
- Avoiding the use of cleaning products and fragrances that have a pine or citrus scent because these can react with ozone to form particles and formaldehyde.
- Minimizing the use of products that make surfaces stain-and water-repellent or non-stick, since they may contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Examples of PFAS-containing products include stain/water repellents for carpets and fabrics, some countertop sealers, some waxes for floors and tile, and non-stick cook pans. Check here for more information on PFAS.
Using combustion appliances properly
- Using an electric or gas stove and heater instead of a wood stove or fireplace. If you do burn wood, use “seasoned” (dry) wood, and make sure that your fireplace or woodstove drafts properly.
- NEVER using gas stoves to heat the house as this can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide and other air pollutants.
- Never using hibachis, charcoal grills, unvented space heaters or portable generators indoors. These should all be used outdoors at a distance from the home so that emissions do not enter open windows or doorways.
- Having gas heaters and stoves checked annually by a professional before the heating season to assure that they are functioning properly and vented to the outdoors.
Providing adequate ventilation and filtration
- Using high-emitting products (e.g., paint, glue, caulk, candles and incense) outdoors when possible, or increase ventilation when using products or engaging in activities indoors that may generate pollutants. To do so, you can open windows and doors when the weather permits or turn on local exhaust fans.
- If your home does not have a central system, using one or more high-efficiency portable air cleaners that do not emit ozone. Click here for advice on how to select a safe indoor air cleaner.
- Closing windows and doors when the outdoor air pollutant level is high, e.g., during a wildfire episode, and use indoor air cleaners as instructed above. Visit AirNow for the current and forecasted air quality levels for your city. Click here for more information about how to reduce exposure during wildfire episodes.