One of the joys of the autumn season is all of the wonderful smells. Crisp autumn air, apple cider, cinnamon and cloves are some of the best scents of the season.
And all around us we see advertisements for products that will make our homes smell better or fresher. Items like plug-ins, candles, sprays and wax melts release scents into the air to fill our homes with a fragrance of our choice.
Many people don’t realize that these kinds of products create indoor air pollution. Scented products send tiny particles of chemicals into the air. The chemicals enter our bodies when we inhale the particles. Even small amounts of these chemicals can create immediate symptoms for people with asthma, allergies or chemical sensitivities.
Along with the products we use, the daily activities like cooking, cleaning, and bathing, also create indoor air pollution. It can become a problem when the pollutants become concentrated.
It’s surprisingly common for indoor air to be more polluted than outdoor air. Poor indoor air quality can cause allergy and asthma symptoms, headaches and more. According to the National Human Activity Pattern Survey, most Americans spend about 87 percent of their time indoors. This is why we should think about what we can do to promote healthy indoor air for ourselves and our households.
Here are some simple ways to improve indoor air quality.
▪ Reduce or eliminate the use of air freshener products. These products are popular, and many people love them. If you don’t want to give them up completely, you can improve your indoor air by using them less often.
▪ Use bathroom and kitchen fans. These fans are installed in homes to help reduce moisture and indoor air contaminants. To make sure they are working, hold a square of toilet paper up to the fan. If the suction holds it up, it is working. If the piece of toilet paper falls, it’s not working.
▪ Open windows briefly every day, even during winter. Opening windows can dilute indoor air pollution. To air out your home quickly, without too much heat loss, try a “fresh air blast.” Go through the home opening one window at a time and then go back through closing each one. This allows for a quick exchange of air.
▪ Keep the dust down. Dusting with a water-dampened cloth and vacuuming weekly reduces the amount of dust around the home and in the air. Dust contains allergens, heavy metals and chemicals, and contributes to poor indoor air quality.
Our living conditions play an important role in the health and safety of our households. There are many actions we can do in our homes to maintain a healthful living environment. Some of the actions we can do to improve our home environment may surprise you. There are common behaviors that many of us don’t realize have a negative impact.
Thurston County Healthy Homes Program offers free, confidential Healthy Homes Visits to residents and child care centers in Thurston County. During a Healthy Homes Visit, trained members of the program will help you identify ways to create a healthier living space. Topics covered include mold and moisture, indoor air quality, exposure to lead and other toxics, general safety, and more.
To schedule a visit, call 360-867-2674 or email HealthyHomes@co.thurston.wa.us.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org.