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Common Household Airborne Toxins

How they got here and how to get them out!

Homes have always harbored pollutants; it's impossible not to have some pollutants.

Think back to Colonial America. Every colonist cooked in her home over an open fireplace. Try doing that today; not only will you set off every smoke detector in the place, but you'll damage your d├ęcor and your lungs, as well.


This is primarily a reflection in the advances in home design and construction. Today's homes are almost air-tight in contrast to the log and chinked structure of earlier homes. Add Tyvek wrap and other construction improvements and you're faced today with homes that don't let fresh air into "water down" the indoor air's accumulated pollutants.

According to the EPA, some of the major contributors to indoor pollution include:

  • Combustion sources (gas, wood, coal, oil, etc.)
  • Insulation containing asbestos
  • Furniture or cabinets made from certain pressed wood products
  • Radon
  • Pesticides
  • Some cleaning products 

This is only a partial list, but it is long enough to frighten us. One health crisis being partially blamed on indoor pollution is asthma, which now affects over 15 million Americans, including 5 million children. What can we do?

First, we can limit the use of pollutants in the home. Gas, for example, burns more cleanly than coal. And there are many cleaning products today that contribute less to pollution than others. Learn your options for reducing indoor pollutants here:

Secondly, we can ventilate our homes more effectively to mitigate the affect of indoor pollutants. One of the most efficient ways to do this in today's tightly constructed and insulated homes is through the installation of an air exchanger. This device will transfer the heated molecules of stale air to fresh air, as the stale air is transferred outside and the fresh air is brought into a home. It is an ideal way to save on energy loss while combating indoor air pollution. In fact, it's similar to leaving a window open all winter, without cooling down your home. These devices also help control humidity levels: too much humidity contributes to mold; too little humidity dries out the respiratory systems of residents.

An excellent article on air exchangers, also known as heat recovery ventilation systems, is available from the US Department of Energy: http://www.eren.doe.gov/consumerinfo/refbriefs/ea5.html
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