Description: Indoor air purification is an important aspect of creating a healthy home, especially in more densely populated towns and cities. Many people spend up to 80-90% of their lives indoors, where air pollution is often greater than outdoors. A recent five-year EPA study found indoor air pollution to be up to 200 times higher than outdoor. Furthermore, modern houses are tightly insulated, keeping air pollutants in.
Indoor air pollution can be a byproduct of tobacco smoke, cooking and heating appliances, toxic vapors from building materials, paints, furniture, and cleaning products. Even mixing common cleaners such as bleach and ammonia will produce a toxic gas. Read up on non-toxic cleaning supplies to find safe alternatives to common household toxins.
Prevention is the first step to creating clean indoor air. You can reduce and eliminate air pollution the following ways:
- Ban indoor smoking
- Avoid candles that are not bees wax or soy based
- Eliminate conventional air fresheners and scented cleaners
- Avoid particle board, which off-gasses formaldehyde for years
- Use and store chemicals, solvents, and glues outside of the house
- Open windows when appropriate based on outdoor air conditions
- Vent heating equipment and appliances
- Use VOC-free (volatile organic compounds) paint
- Air out dry cleaning before bringing into the house
- Minimize dust mites in bedding by frequent airing and cleaning
When additional air purification is called for, there are many options. There are various filtration technologies on the market, each of which excels in a different way. Look for air purifiers that combine multiple technologies for maximum effectiveness.
HEPA air filters are excellent at removing 99.97% of airborne particulates like asbestos, dust, pollen, mold, animal dander, and tobacco smoke, in addition to many bacteria and viruses. Activated carbon filters trap pollutants in the carbon, and are especially helpful with odor removal. They are also moderately effective at removing VOCs, pesticides, combustion by-product gasses, tobacco smoke, and many organic chemicals. Negative ion generators release negative ions into the air, where they attach to airborne pollutants, causing them to fall to the ground. Regular vacuuming is important with negative ion generators. Generally, negative ions remove very small particulate pollution such as tobacco and smog-related particulates, and bacteria. Negative ions can also create a feeling of well-being and increase energy. Electrostatic precipitators and filters generate negative ions and cause trapped pollutants to attach to a series of positively charged collection plates or filters. Generally, negative ion generators and electrostatic precipitators are not highly effective without being paired with other technologies. Ozone generators produce ozone, a highly reactive form of oxygen that can destroy many contaminants and has been successfully used in healing therapies for over 50 years. However, those with asthma, respiratory allergies, and polluted lungs and bodies from years of toxic exposure may be particularly vulnerable to high levels of ozone, and should use ozone generators with caution and the guidance of a healthcare professional. Ozone effectively neutralizes bacteria, viruses, odors, and mold, as well as breaks down VOCs into less harmful compounds, but does not eliminate particulates such as pollen and dust. Ozone levels produced vary widely among different brands; be sure to read specifications carefully. Ozone is an excellent choice for moldy basements, garages, and other spaces outside of your regular living space, as well as moderate use in high use areas. Ultraviolet light purifiers use UV light to kill airborne disease germs, bacteria, and viruses, but do not filter the air, and are therefore best paired with other technologies.
What to look for: Look for air purifiers that combine multiple technologies to create maximum effectiveness. Consider which pollutants you are particularly targeting, and choose appropriate technologies. Also consider the cost of replacement filters and annual energy usage. Other factors to consider are the noise level of the unit, effective coverage area, and return options. An excellent strategy is to purchase a unit with a full money-back guarantee, in order to test its effectiveness in your home.
Uses: Combating indoor air pollution, including bacteria, viruses, VOCs, smoke, smog, and allergens such as dander, dust, pollen, and mold.
Where to find: Online resources, specialty stores.
Avoid: Products that release high levels of ozone without first consulting an alternative healthcare professional. Air filtration systems that use only one technology.