Learn more about the problems with indoor air quality and ways to improve it. Learn what to look for when purchasing an air filtration system.

Watch a clip and learn more about the Nikken Power Pro 5 air filtration system that I personally use. Click Air Wellness Power Pro 5 and then click A Closer Look - Watch Movie. It has the unique feature of being able to create negative ions without creating ozone.

Indoor Air Pollution – What are you breathing?

Indoor air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. People spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. [1] The amount of chemicals in our homes are mind boggling. Think of household products (solvents, insecticides, herbicides, cleanser, and disinfectants), construction and furniture materials (lead, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, adhesives, finishes, and paint), carpets, clothing and bedding (dust, fibers, odors, dry cleaning and preservative chemicals), heating/air conditioning (pollen, mold spores, pet hair/dander, air pollutants from the outside) and your bathroom (sewer gas and mildew). Respiratory illness is the leading cause of hospital admissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency lists poor indoor air quality as the fourth largest environmental threat to our country.[2] Childhood asthmas have increased by 400% in recent years and cancer is the leading cause of death in children ages 5-9.  Unfortunately, there are thousands of new chemicals introduced to our environment each year and only a small percentage have even been tested for carcinogenic properties. Health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal.[3]

You could spend months digging through the information on the American Lung Association website (www.lungusa.org) and it would be worth you time. However, here are some basic controllable ways to minimize some of the toxins and decrease the toxic load on your body. My next article will show you how to comparison shop air filtration systems.

 Household Cleaning products: Some of the top offenders include air fresheners, carpet cleaners, dishwasher detergents (concentrated chlorine vented into the air), drain cleaners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, antibacterial cleaners/soaps and pesticides.  Rather than buying these, mix up your own cleaning products using baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice and phosphate.  Another method is to use water vapor for cleaning.  If you don't want to make your own cleaners, shop for non-toxic cleaning products, but be careful. Labeling and advertising claims can be misleading.

Create a No Shoes policy:  Take your shoes off at the door to avoid tracking in all sorts of chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, lead, chemicals, etc.) on your shoes. These chemicals are difficult to clean up, especially when they get on carpets.

Check your Gas Appliances: Install a carbon monoxide detector in your kitchen and have your appliances checked regularly for problems.

Get Natural Air Filters – Houseplants!: Simple houseplants can remove some chemicals, pollutants (carbon monoxide and formaldehyde) and toxins. Figure about 15-18 houseplants per 1800 sq foot house. Bamboo, palm, orchids, aloe vera, elephant ear philodendron, English ivy, fichus and spider plants are some of the best natural air filters. However, plants will not solve all the indoor air pollution problems.[4]

Replace your furnace filters and clean all exhaust fans regularly. Choose high efficiency filters. Run the fan on your furnace to keep air circulating through the filter and the house.

Painting? Shop smarter for paints that have reduced or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Remodeling? Go green with your building products that emit fewer toxins, formaldehyde-free and are environmentally friendly. Learn more at www.healthhome.org.

Carpet? Minimize the carpet in your home. Not only does it trap dirt, pollutants and toxins, generally it is cleaned with toxic chemicals as well. For new carpet, talk to the retailer about carpets and adhesives that emit fewer volatile organic compounds. Unroll and air out any new carpet for a few days prior to installing. Ventilate the house well for several days after installation.

New car smell? Most people love the new car smell, but it is the result of numerous volatile organic compounds from glues, paints, vinyl and plastics. Keep the windows open in the garage to help air it out.

These tips only touch the tip of the iceberg on how to improve indoor air quality. You never take a break from breathing and it has been proven that the quality of the air impacts your overall health. Watch for the second article focusing on what to look for in an air filtration unit and how to comparison shop.

[1] American Lung Association website www.lungusa.org

[2] American Lung Association’s Health House website www.healthhouse.org

[3] Environmental Protection Agency website www.epa.gov “The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality”.

[4] World’s Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets, Bottom Line Publications, 2008, pg. 62.

How to comparison shop air filtration systems

Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Indoor air quality is generally significantly worse than outdoor air quality. Our homes are full of harmful chemicals (household cleaning products, solvents, insecticides, herbicides, disinfectants), natural allergens (dust, fibers, odors, pet dander, molds, and mildews), and construction and furniture materials (lead, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, adhesives, finishes, paints, vinyls and more). Because our homes are designed to be very air tight, it is important that we take extra steps to ensure the quality of the air.

Prior to learning more about what to look for in an air filtration unit, I made some costly purchasing mistakes. The first unit I purchased touted the health benefits of negative ions. Unfortunately, ozone was a byproduct of the negative ion creation. Ozone is very bad for your lungs[1], while negative ions are very healthy for you.[2] California now only allows units that do not produce ozone. The second unit’s filter never got dirty and it made loud odd sounds that would wake me up. Both wound up in the giveaway pile.

There are central air units as well as portable devices. The central air systems require the heat or air conditioning system to be on, so the amount of time it is on is limited. The quality of the air also depends on the cleanliness of the air vents. Portable units can be run continuously and can kick the operation to a higher setting as needs change. 

Just like in so many areas, you get what you pay for in air filtration units as well. Here is a checklist of important features to look for to make sure you are getting a unit that will do what it says it will do and will stand the test of time. Remember cleaning the filters regularly as well as replacing them on schedule is critical to the quality of your air. Don’t be cheap with the maintenance of your air filtration unit. Be sure to get a unit that is the right size for your room and has adequate clean air delivery rate (CADR).

Multiple Stage Filtration System: One filter cannot do it all. The unit I own now has a five stage filtration system. Here is what each is designed to do:

    1. Prefilter/Mesh Filter combo removes larger particles of dust, mold, pollen, dirt, mildew, and more. It is important to trap these large particles early to prolong the filter life.
    2. Organic Neutralizing Filter contains a plant material that attracts, retains, inactivates and destroys microscopic contaminants. Best of all, it disrupts the irritant properties of these particles without the use of synthetic chemicals.
    3. Activated Carbon Filter is a highly effective method of reducing contaminants. The carbon has been treated with oxygen to open up millions of tiny pores between the carbon atoms. Less than a teaspoon of activated carbon results in a cleaning surface area roughly the size of a football field- now that is powerful.
    4. HEPA Filter stands for high efficiency particulate air and is used in environments where the air needs to be very clean (operating rooms, laboratories, computer chip manufacturing, etc.). Don’t be confused by HEPA-like filter. It is not a HEPA filter. Be sure to get a Certified HEPA filter which will remove very small particles (3/10ths of a micrometer if you care). They are verified to filter at 99.97% efficiency rate.
  1. Negative Ion Generation: Negative ions create fresh, pure and invigorating air. Studies show it can increase serotonin production, boost energy, and decrease depression. Air conditioning produces lots of positive ions and it is helpful to balance with negative “feel good” ions.
  2. Dust-reduction mode: Look for one that has alternating speeds to optimize cleaning in dusty conditions.
  3. Quiet operation: Be sure you can hear your TV and be able to sleep. Some units are very noisy.
  4. Energy Efficient: Look for an Energy Star Model. Make sure it uses minimal electricity. It will save you in operating costs over the years.
  5. Anti-charging material: Helps reduce static electricity buildup.
  6. Variety of operating modes: Make sure there are a variety of operation modes to suit all your needs.
  7. Automatic Particle Sensor: Kicks the system into a higher speed to quickly clear the air when particles are sensed.  
  8. Lightweight: Most units normally cover a large room or two. Look for units that can be easily transported to the rooms you spend the most time in.
  9. Air Quality Indicator:  Helps you determine the quality of air in the room initially versus after operating a few minutes.

Here are some recommended technologies to avoid:

  1. Electrostatic filters are not an effective technology as they become less effective over time, need frequent cleaning and often emit ozone.[3]
  2. Ultraviolet Light for filtration uses more energy and produces heat and ozone.
  3. Ozone production either intentionally or as a by-product.[4] While it can kill micro-organisms, ozone irritates the respiratory system.[5] Be sure to look at the technical specs or data sheet.

Since you spend lots of time in your car, consider getting an air unit to counteract the pollution from the outside as well as the chemical vapors inside the car. Look for the same features.

Watch a clip and learn more about the Nikken Power Pro 5 air filtration system that I personally use. Click Air Wellness Power Pro 5 and then click A Closer Look - Watch Movie. It has the unique feature of being able to create negative ions without creating ozone.

[1] US Environmental Protection Agency website, Ozone Generators Sold as Air Cleaners http://www.epa.gov/iedweb00/pubs/ozonegen.html

[2] Consumer Reports, April 2005

[3] American Lung Association, Chapter 3: Types of Air Cleaning Processes http://www.lungusa.org/site/c.dvLUK9O0E/b.39308/k.2A2D/Chapter_3_Types_of_Air_Cleaning_Processes.htm

[4] California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board, Air Cleaning Devices for the Home Frequently Asked Questions 2005 page 5.

[5] US Environmental Protection Agency website, Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home, http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airclean.html#Ozone%20generators





 Living Healthier Now and the Heal Yourself Challenge do not claim to diagnose, treat or cure any condition or symptom. Always work with your medical team to make the best choices for your given situation.

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