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Mitzi Parker: Simple things you can do to improve air quality in your home

You often see news reports about the dangers and health risks associated with air pollution, smog, and even the pollen count. Have you ever thought about the quality of air inside your home? Research shows that most of us spend 90 percent of our time indoors where pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoors, so a home environment free of contaminants is just as important to our health. Below are a couple of simple and inexpensive things you can do to improve your home’s indoor air quality.
• Keep indoor humidity below 60 percent. Excessive humidity can lead to mold growth, which can trigger allergies and asthma episodes in some sensitive individuals. Reduce the humidity in your home by using exhaust fans when bathing or cooking, repair leaky plumbing, vent the clothes dryer to the outside, do not over water houseplants, and do not close off air vents to a room. A great low cost investment is a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home.
• Reduce the use of synthetic air fresheners. Studies have shown that some plug-in air fresheners emit up to 20 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including seven that are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws. Synthetic fragrances can lead to respiratory problems for some individuals. To reduce VOCs in your home, use natural air fresheners such as baking soda and white vinegar or simmer spices like cinnamon or cloves on the stove, open the windows, and switch to green cleaning products.
• Make your home a no-smoking area. Researchers have found that second-hand smoke increases a child’s risk of asthma, cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, and ear and respiratory infections. The smoke from cigarettes contains over 4,000 chemicals. Not allowing smoking indoors is the best way to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
• Leave contaminants at the door. Imagine where your feet have been! You would be amazed at what can cling to the bottom of your shoes. Reduce the amount of debris you track into your home by adding a doormat both outside all exterior doors and just inside the doorway to catch debris from your shoes. Or even simpler — take you shoes off and leave them at the door. Have “inside shoes” or slippers stored by the door and exchange your outside shoes for inside-only shoes.
Your health is important! A few simple changes will improve the indoor air quality and make your home a healthier environment for you and your family.

Mitzi Parker is Sumter County Extension agent/Family and Consumer Sciences, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. Contact her at 229-924-4476.