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When you become a parent, the simple act of breathing takes on a whole new meaning. Watching your baby’s tiny chest rhythmically rise and fall and listening for a comforting exhalation on the baby monitor are two habits you’re likely to pick up before you’ve even realized it. But what about the quality of the air he’s breathing?
Concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs, a variety of chemicals emitted from many common household items) are up to 10 times higher indoors than out, even in areas with significant outdoor air pollution, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Children and adults spend the bulk of their time indoors, where pollutants such as VOCs, lead, dust and radon concentrate; and all of them can have shortand long-term health effects, including kidney, liver and nervous system damage. But with a few easy precautions, you can improve your home’s air quality and breathe easier knowing that your whole family is healthier for it.
Clean floors for cleaner air
Wipe your feet on a doormat or remove your shoes at the door (instruct guests to do the same) so you don’t track in contaminants such as animal feces, lead, dust or pesticides. At least twice a week, vacuum carpets using a vacuum with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filter and mop bare floors. Instead of installing new wall-to-wall carpeting, which can emit VOCs, flame retardants and other harmful chemicals, choose an eco-friendly flooring alternative.
Freshen air naturally
Open your windows for at least five minutes a day to let polluted air out and cleaner air in. And, let your green thumb have free reign: Some indoor plants have been proven to remove indoor plants. Bamboo palm, ficus, common chrysanthemums, marginata, spider plants and peperomia are good options. Use natural herbs and essential oils to freshen the air instead of scented candles or air fresheners, which have been linked to infant diarrhea and headaches in adults.
Keep humidity low
High humidity can promote mold growth, and mold is a respiratory irritant that can cause allergies and asthma. Repair leaky plumbing and seal cracks in basement floors and walls. Open a window or turn on the exhaust fan when showering and cooking. Place dehumidifiers or air conditioners in damp rooms, and clean and replace the filters regularly. Try to keep the humidity level in your home between 30 percent and 50 percent; many dehumidifiers have a built-in hygrometer that gives readings.