Most of us take all kinds of precautions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe: we use seat belts and child seats in the car, we clear sidewalks and driveways in the winter, we place non-slip mats in bath tubs, and so forth.
One thing many of us might not have thought about, though, is the quality of the air in our homes. As far back as 1981, the New York Times ran an article detailing many of the hazardous fumes that may be lurking in your own living room, kitchen, or basement.
Some of these are obvious, such as cigarette smoke or gas from the stove or furnace, but others are more insidious. For example, we probably don’t think about formaldehyde being an indoor pollution threat, but according to the article, it can seep out of materials like foam insulation or even the particleboard used in cheaper furnishings. Studies suggests that formaldehyde poses a cancer risk, so it’s nothing to mess with.
Then, of course, there’s radon, the dangers of which are discussed in the media periodically, as well as common household chemicals used for cleaning and such. Mold and mildew are also a problem, as they emit a variety of spores and other irritants.
So, what to do? For starters, do some work to determine just how unhealthy your indoor air really is. The American Lung Association provides some excellent guidance for this.
Besides recommending a radon test (the only reliable way to know if you have high levels of it), the article also suggests checking if the humidity in your home is routinely above 50%, if there are areas of standing water or leaks under your sinks or in the cellar, and if you are routinely covering and removing food waste.
Obviously, a lot of these issues can be dealt with through regular cleaning and effective ventilation. Another potential option is filtering indoor air with a purifying machine, but in many cases, consistent housekeeping and circulating air by opening windows is likely enough to keep your home safe and breathable.