GASP Earth Week of Actions: Everyday Choices That Can Help Improve Air Quality at Home & Work
Updated: Sep 9, 2022
This week we’ve talked a lot about actions that you can take to help reduce your personal impact on the environment and local air quality regarding the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the ways in which you get around town.
As Earth Week winds down, we wanted to shift our attention to Earth- and air quality-friendly actions we can take at home and at work to avoid air pollution pitfalls and ensure you and your crew can breathe healthier air there.
Because indoor air quality is a concern. Recent studies show indoor air quality can sometimes be more polluted than outdoor air if you can believe.
Then there’s exposure to consider. Americans, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, where the concentrations of some pollutants are as much as five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.
Some of these pollutants come from sources inside the building themselves – like combustion sources such as fireplaces, tobacco smoke, and cooking appliances. But there are also cleaning supplies, paints, and insecticides from the degradation of old building materials or from new materials that are off-gassing.
We also know indoor air quality can become unhealthy due to outdoor sources of pollution making their way inside our homes, schools, and office buildings through open doors and windows, ventilation systems, and cracks in structures.
Some pollutants come indoors through building foundations. Harmful smoke from chimneys and industrial sources can enter homes to pollute the air in the home and neighborhood. In areas with contaminated groundwater or soils, volatile chemicals can enter buildings through the same process.
With all that said, here’s the good news: Indoor air pollution concentrations from individual sources usually do not pose a serious health risk by themselves. The bad news: The majority of homes have more than one source of indoor air pollution.
We’re talking more than radon and asbestos (which are serious concerns that you can learn more about here and here). We’re talking about other stuff like dust, smoke, and fumes from home products.
Here are some ways to take action to improve your indoor air quality:
Get going with spring cleaning. Commit to a deep clean this spring. Wipe down windows and walls. Remember to launder curtains and rugs and bedding – all of which tend to trap allergens that will have your eyes watering and your throat itching. You can also consider switching to natural cleansers that have less-harsh fumes.
Think filters. Question for you: When did you last change the filters that help keep your furnace and air conditioning systems clean? Follow-up question: Do you know the state of your ductwork? Because having it cleaned can make a huge difference in your indoor air quality. You can get more information on air filters this handy guide from the EPA.
Seek out more resources. You can find more information on how to keep your indoor air clean by checking out these helpful infographics on the best ways to clean and disinfect your home created by our friends at Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE). Also check out Pittsburgh-based ROCIS (Reducing Outdoor Contaminants in Indoor Spaces), one of our partner organizations that has a number of helpful resources.