For Chinese New Year, which is today, common lore is that you turn on all the lights and let the air flow through your home to get rid of bad luck and bring in new luck. This may not be such a bad idea to decrease indoor air problems as well.
Have you wondered about the benefits of having an air cleaner in your home? Perhaps someone in your household has an allergy to dust, pollen, or pet dander. Or maybe you are concerned about the air quality in your home. Deciding whether you should get one and which one is right for you can be a daunting task.
There are a few different types of residential air cleaners. Mechanical filters draw air through a surface to trap particles. High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are common mechanical filters.
Electronic air cleaners and ionizing air cleaners use negative ions to charge airborne particles so they are attracted to and settle onto room surfaces to keep them out of the air. These types of air cleaners are likely to produce ozone, a toxic gas.
Ozone is a powerful lung irritant. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that ozone exposure can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. Ozone is particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory diseases (such as asthma).
Most residential air cleaners available, including HEPA filters, can remove small-particle allergens. Large particles such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander settle on surfaces rapidly and are not in the air long enough to be treated by a residential air cleaner.
To control those large-particle allergens that settle on surfaces in your home effectively, dust hard surfaces with a damp cloth, wash bedding regularly, and vacuum carpets and furniture weekly. It also helps to remove your shoes when entering the home. The dirt brought in by shoes can contain allergens and toxic substances such as lead.
The most effective way to reduce the health risk from indoor air pollutants is to control or eliminate the source of the pollutants and to ventilate your home with clean outdoor air. To reduce or eliminate the pollutant sources, switch to non-toxic green cleaners, do not use air fresheners (many contain harmful chemicals), and remove hazardous materials from your home.
To keep your home ventilated, use available ventilating fans and perform a clean-air blast daily or several times a week: Walk through your home and open one window or outside door in every room of the house and then walk through again closing each one. This provides a flush of clean air without cooling off the home too much. Who knows, you might flush out bad luck and bring in good luck at the same time!
Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.