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The Air Quality Blog by Rabbit Air

Improve Your Home and Your Health

For many proud homeowners across the country, home improvement is top priority on their to-do list. There are several aspects to improving your house such as routine maintenance, renovations, redecoration, upgrades, and other enhancements and accommodations. There are also a variety of reasons homeowners decide to make these changes: they could be health-related, the desire for a change of scenery, a need to be more economical, or simply the urge to take on another engaging project. All of these changes will contribute to an improved quality of life in and around the home – and investing in the right projects and products can be an excellent way to achieve this while saving money.

How Your Home Can Impact Your Health

As homeowners become savvier about the kind of lifestyles which improve health, there are several ways to upgrade the home to make increased well being possible. One way is to improve the cleanliness of the home while reducing germs and pollutants, a critical factor not only for the young and the elderly, but everyone. “Sick house syndrome,” or “sick building syndrome,” is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a situation in which “building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” It is an illness experienced by Americans across the country who are exposed to various chemicals and sub-par living conditions which are prevalent, yet not always visible, in older buildings or buildings which are not structured to meet basic health standards. The result is that non-suspecting occupants may be exposed to unhealthy levels of carbon monoxide and radon, combustion particles or gases, toxicity from household cleaners, interior mold, and old lead-based paint. Even incense, air fresheners and candles can contribute to potential problems.

Solutions for a Healthier Home Environment

Fortunately, in most cases there are solutions to these problems. Household cleaners can be replaced by homemade, environmentally friendly ones which are cheap and easy to make using basic ingredients like baking soda, tea tree oil, vinegar, alcohol, lemon and toothpaste. Homeowners can also plug in carbon monoxide detectors and have their houses checked for other gases. Qualified professionals can remove asbestos and other toxic materials from the home. There are other simple upgrades which are also effective. Eco-friendly air purifiers can reduce pollutants and other chemicals, as well as improve air quality for people with allergies to dust or animal dander, and those who experience sensitivity to dry or damp air. Natural air purifiers like bamboo, yucca, and other plants are excellent enhancements which also provide an aesthetic appeal. Homeowners may wish to go even further, however, making their homes more green as an approach to improving their immediate environment. This can be effective for a variety of reasons; energy efficiency means effective natural lighting, which provides natural detoxification; energy efficient windows not only insulate well but can be opened to improve air quality and provide coolness; the use of sustainable materials which are non-toxic; and many other improvements add to the overall health factor of the home.

Financial Benefits

The financial benefits of making these changes can be substantial. While initial upgrades at first may seem costly when implemented on a large scale (like installing solar panels for instance), the long-term pay-off more than compensates for the funds initially spent. Homeowners can also enjoy the immediate effects of an improved quality of life due to a healthier environment, which will ultimately save money on trips to the hospital and doctor visits. Smaller improvements – such as investing in Eco-friendly cleaners – will save homeowners on the money spent on more expensive brand names. Making your home a safe, healthy place to live, will not only increase its value on the housing market, but, depending on what aspects of your home you have improved (like upgrading old features and securing safety measures), your insurance premiums can improve. And, of course, it’s important to make sure that the contents of your home are covered too, especially if they are upgrades which are contributing to the overall quality of the home. This means money saved in the long-run, a consideration which often takes its toll on health.

Most importantly, an improved home which is maximized for healthy living will play a hugely positive role, and become a major factor in the health and well being of the homeowners and tenants. A home is, after all, more than a place to stop between commutes – it’s the center of family, the place where memories are made, and where we ultimately spend most of our time. It is a place where we cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to our health and the health of our loved ones.

By volunteer contributor Gemma Hunt

[i] RabbitAir.com. “The Air Quality Blog by Rabbit Air”. Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.rabbitair.com/blogs/air-purifier

[ii] EPA.gov. “Indoor Air Facts No. 4 (revised) Sick Building Syndrome”. Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pdfs/sick_building_factsheet.pdf

[iii] ConsumerReports.org. “Is poor indoor air quality making you sick? Protect yourself against six hidden hazards in your home”. Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/06/is-poor-indoor-air-quality-making-you-sick/index.htm

[iv] GoodHousekeeping.com. “9 Cleaners You Can Make Yourself The key ingredients you need just might be hiding in your pantry” Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning-organizing/make-at-home-cleaners

[v] EarthEasy.com. “The Top 10 Plants for Removing Indoor Toxins”. Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://eartheasy.com/blog/2009/05/the-top-10-plants-for-removing-indoor-toxins/

[vi] EnvironmentalLeader.com. “Sick Building Syndrome: Is Greening Your Building a Cure?” Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/05/02/sick-building-syndrome-is-greening-your-building-a-cure/

[vii] Realtor.com. “What Homeowners’ Insurance Discounts Are You Missing?” Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.realtor.com/advice/what-homeowners-insurance-discounts-are-you-missing/

[viii] QuoteZone. “Compare contents insurance quotes now”. Accessed January 8, 2015.

http://www.quotezone.co.uk/content-insurance.htm

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Be Aware of Indoor Air Quality

Air pollution affects more than just outdoor air; dirty air can be inside every building you walk into, including your home and workplace. If there is a pollution alert outside, you might decide to stay inside to remain safe. This, unfortunately, doesn’t always help. In fact, your indoor air may be even more polluted than what you’re breathing outside.

What’s In the Air?
Outside, smog, haze, or smog hangs in the atmosphere. If there’s been a fire nearby, there might be smoke dirtying up the environment. Factories near you might be belching out all sorts of irritating pollutants and particulates. Inside your home or office, it’s likely that you’re breathing in harmful substances, too, such as:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Fire-retardants
  • Lead
  • Radon
  • Chemicals
  • Fragrances
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Mold
  • Asbestos

How do all these indoor pollutants enter your space? They appear in multiple ways. For example, that new pseudo-leather sofa with its odd smell is releasing chemicals as it settles in. So is the laminate flooring you just had installed in your den. If you have dogs or cats, you already know where the pet dander originated. Your cleaning products also impact your environment, as most conventional cleansers get rid of grime through chemical concoctions.

Ventilation and Other Factors
There are multiple factors that magnify the effects of poor indoor air quality, also referred to as IAQ. Some of them you have more control over than others, for example:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Remodeling dust
  • Humidity levels
  • Leaks from roofs or plumbing

A poorly ventilated building is a surefire recipe for IAQ, as the healthiest spaces are those with free-flowing outdoor air. Remodeling jobs that involve drywall or lumber generate an amazing amount of microscopic dust particles that coat every surface and are inhaled as a matter of course. Low and high humidity levels impact air quality and leaks often lead to mildew and mold.

Modern Times Are Worse for IAQ
Indoor air has become more of a problem in modern times. This is because of several factors.

  • Central Air Conditioning and Heating: Today, our homes and offices have climate control systems that require closed windows and doors.
  • Chemical Cleansers: Many of the cleaning products we buy in the store are laden with harmful chemicals. If you want a spotless carpet or shiny faucet, you usually apply a squirt or sprinkle of air contaminants to accomplish your task.
  • Interior Decorating: More furnishings and flooring products are man-made from artificial materials than in yesteryear. For example, instead of having hardwood floors, homeowners install laminate reproductions. Polyester and plastic have taken the place of cotton and wood.
  • Time Indoors: People spend much more time indoors than they did in the past. This is true of workers on the job, school children in classrooms rather than on the playground, and family life in general (kids playing video games instead of freeze-tag, parents watching TV instead of taking walks).

Health Effects
When humans spend long hours inhaling polluted air, their health is adversely impacted. Many maladies and conditions are directly linked to IAQ, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Allergies
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer
  • Eye, nose, lungs, throat irritation

What Can You Do About It?
Happily, there are steps that you can take to improve the quality of your air. To start with, be more aware of what you bring into your home or office building. Here are some actions that can change the IAQ of your interior world:

  • Clean Your Vents: Cleaning the ventilation ductwork of your HVAC systems can make a substantial difference.
  • Open Your Windows and Doors: It’s a wise idea to open up your house or office building to the outside world to invite some fresh air in.
  • Use an Air Purifier: These units draw in dirty air and trap contaminates in a filter.
  • Read Labels: Take some time to read the labels on cleansers and furnishings that you bring into your home or work environment.
  • HEPA Vacuum: You can suck up allergen concentrations in your house by vacuuming with a machine that has a HEPA filter. You can even remove lead and other toxins with this type of vacuum cleaner, especially one with a rotating brush and powerful suction.
  • Mop with Water Only: After vacuuming, mop with plain water. Skip the detergents and just wash your floors with good old H2O.
  • Take Your Shoes Off: A helpful household custom is removing your shoes at the door. This keeps outdoor pollutants out of your household.

Be Mindful
Clean air is one of the things that all living beings need to live healthy lives. You don’t have to shrug your shoulders and accept poor IAQ as a phenomenon of modern existence. By making a few lifestyle changes and being mindful of what you inhale, you can help to improve your health.

Let us help you choose the correct air purifier for your needs. Our knowledgeable, friendly and honest customer service representatives are available to you 24 hours a day. Just contact us or call 888.866.8862.

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What is Air Pollution?

Anyone concerned about breathing better has probably thought about air pollution at some point. We know that it is unhealthy and we should take action to protect ourselves from it, but what exactly is air pollution and how does it affect our bodies?  Air pollution refers to the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials into the atmosphere that can cause harm to living organisms or damage the environment. Here in the United States, densely populated areas tend to have the highest levels of air pollution.  Every year the American Lung Association ranks the most polluted cities in America; you can view the 2011 rankings here.

Smoke While some forms of air pollution are not visible to the eye, smog is usually very noticeable. It is a mixture of smoke and fog commonly found in major metropolitan areas, and is notorious for turning the air an ugly color and obstructing views. A number of particulates can be found in smog, including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, soot, ozone, dirt and dust.  Most of us know that these nasty substances are produced by cars and gas stations, but smog can also be caused by the smoke from fires or as a byproduct of waste treatment and industrial facilities.

The effects of breathing in air pollution differ depending on the duration and concentration of exposure; this means that those living in highly populated areas are more at risk.  Young children, the elderly, and those with illnesses are also affected more than others. The short term effects of breathing in air pollution can cause a host of unpleasant health issues.  Nausea, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat are common reactions.  Breathing in polluted air can also aggravate existing conditions such as allergies, asthma, or emphysema and can even cause respiratory infections.  Air pollution is even more dangerous in the long term, and can cause or exacerbate serious conditions such as chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and damage vital organs.

Luckily, we can help protect ourselves from air pollution. Monitoring air pollution levels during the day is a good way to find out the best times to venture outside and when you should try to stay indoors. Making changes to help reduce pollution in your city benefits everyone, and can be as simple as switching from plastic shopping bags to reusable canvas ones.  Of course, we at Rabbit Air know that if you want to protect yourself in your home or office, using an air purifier is a great way to keep the air clean and safe.

Visit the links below for more information on air pollution.  If you have other facts or knowledge about air pollution that you want to share, please let us know by leaving a comment!

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