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air respirator - personal air cleaner Today's homes are often built with energy efficiency in mind.  They are designed to "hold" air inside – thus avoiding heat loss during cold winter months and and heat gain during the hot summer months.  Of course, what is better for your energy bills is not necessarily better for indoor air quality; this type of "tight" construction often doesn't allow these homes to breathe.

Weathertight homes tend to trap airborne particles inside, where everyday household contaminants can become increasingly concentrated.  The result is that indoor air can become more polluted than the air outdoors.

Most people are not aware of the poor quality of some indoor air.  Many Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, either at home or at their workplace, where they can be exposed to very high levels of airborne particles.  In fact, the EPA ranks indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.

Pollen, mold spores, pet dander, household dust, and tobacco smoke are common indoor airborne particles.  Most such particles cannot even be seen; these contaminants are often associated with people's asthmatic and allergic reactions.  According to the EPA, levels of many airborne pollutants may be 25 to 100 times higher than outdoors!

Indoor Air Quality Solutions

There are three basic methods for improving the quality of indoor air.
  1. Source control.
    The first approach – source control – is the most effective method.  This involves minimizing the use of products and materials that cause indoor pollution, using good hygiene practices to minimize biological contaminants (including humidity and moisture control, and occasional cleaning and disinfection of wet or moist surfaces), and following good housekeeping practices to control particle buildup.
  2. Ventilation.
    The second approach – outdoor air ventilation – is also effective and commonly used.  Ventilation methods include installing exhaust fans close to contaminant sources, increasing outdoor air flows in mechanical ventilation systems, and opening windows, especially when pollutant sources are active.
  3. Filtration.
    The third approach – air cleaning – is not generally sufficient in itself, but is often used to supplement source control and ventilation.  Air filters, electronic particle air cleaners, and ionizers are often used to remove airborne particles when source control and ventilation are inadequate.  When the air is seriously polluted, personal respirators may be used to directly filter the air that people breathe into their lungs.

Indoor Air Quality Resources

  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) provides basic information about indoor air quality issues in homes and residences.  Published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  • American Lung Association - Clean Air is a comprehensive resource about many aspects of air quality, including facts about indoor and outdoor air pollution.  Learn about potential dangers associated with poor indoor air and steps homeowners can take to improve air quality in the home.

Indoor Air Quality Products

In addition to air cleaners, there are a number of other products and appliances for the home that can help improve indoor air quality.  Central air conditioning systems can help keep you comfortable during humid summer months.  If central air is not feasible or affordable, a room air conditioner may be a more economical comfort solution.  Both types of air conditioning equipment generally clean the air to some extent.  For serious indoor air problems, you may wish to consider an efficient HEPA filter.
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Indoor Air Quality Problems and Solutions

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