Indoor Air Quality

Did you know: PCBs were widely used in construction materials until 1979, meaning dozens, maybe hundreds, of Vermont school buildings could have high airborne levels of the chemicals. While the local and state governments deliberate on the best course of action to take in addressing the issue, it’s important to be aware of the indoor air quality within your home as well.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Improve Ventilation: One approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors.

Natural ventilation can also improve indoor air quality by reducing pollutants that are indoors. Examples of natural ventilation are:

  • opening windows and doors

  • window shading such as closing the blinds

2. Use Air Cleaners and Filters: There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so.

Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants. Check out the NYTimes list of best indoor air quality monitors:

Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.

Consider HEPA air filters (high efficiency particulate air [filter]). This type of air filter can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).

3. Bring the Outdoors In: Plants!

Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.