Going green and clean: clearing the air at home

Published: Mar. 12, 2020 at 3:10 PM EDT
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The Environmental Protection Agency reports indoor air quality can be up to five times more polluted than outside.

Laura Browning is a busy mom of two who can't slow down when the family feels rundown.

"Kids always seemed to be sick, runny noses," Laura says.

She wanted to make healthier changes, but wasn't thinking about the air inside her home.

Thad Tarkington is the co-founder of Second Nature, a company that delivers air filters right to people's door.

Thad says, "Recent data from the EPA has found that indoor air is two to five times worse than outdoor air."

"There's a big trend in this home wellness, how can I create the environment that I live in and make it a really healthy, sustainable place?" Thad asks.

According to the National Institutes of Health, using a pleated air filter and replacing it every 90 days can remove harmful particles from the air including mold spores, dust and pet dander.

Thad shares, "You're going to see about a 64% reduction in infectious, airborne illness."

Other tips to clear the air include using cooking oils, like avocado, which have a high smoke point to avoid breathing in toxins and taking off your shoes.

"A recent study by the University of Arizona actually found the average shoes carry nine or ten different bacteria," explains Thad.

Now it's the first thing Laura's kids do when they walk in the door.

Laura says, "Everybody has their own little bin over there and they take off their shoes and put them in the bin."

She also changes her air filter regularly and says she's seen a big difference especially in her son, Marshall.

"He has not been sick since he was two, which is crazy!" Laura explains, proving a little extra effort can go a long way.

Another tip is to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture those tiny air particles.

The EPA says replacing your clogged filter with a new one regularly can lower your energy consumption between five and 15 percent.




REPORT: MB #2729

BACKGROUND: The World Health Organization (WHO) data shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. The combined effects of outdoor and household air pollution cause about seven million deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections. Exposure to smoke from cooking fires causes 3.8 million deaths each year, mostly in low and middle-income countries. Burning fuels such as dung, wood and coal in inefficient stoves or open hearths produces a variety of health-damaging pollutants, including particulate matter (PM), methane, carbon monoxide, polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Burning kerosene in simple wick lamps also produces significant emissions of fine particles and other pollutants. Members of households that rely on polluting fuels and devices can suffer a higher risk of burns, poisonings, musculoskeletal injuries and accidents. (Source:

EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION: Some health effects may show up shortly after a single exposure or after repeated exposures to a pollutant. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches; dizziness; and fatigue. Immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable. Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person's exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. After exposure to some indoor air pollutants, symptoms of some diseases such as asthma may show up, be aggravated or worsened. Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects include respiratory diseases; heart disease; and cancer. Further research is needed to better understand which health effects occur after exposure to the average pollutant concentrations found in homes and which occur from the higher concentrations that occur for short periods of time. (Source:

STUDY UNCOVERS NEW HAZARDS: In a study of indoor air quality, a team of Washington State University researchers found surprisingly high levels of pollutants, including formaldehyde and possibly mercury, in carefully monitored homes, and the pollutants vary through the day and increase as temperatures rise. The study, led by Tom Jobson, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and graduate student Yibo Huangfu, said, "People think of air pollution as an outdoor problem, but they fail to recognize that they're exposing themselves to much higher emission rates inside their homes." These emissions come from a variety of sources, such as building materials, furniture, household chemical products, and from activities like cooking. One of the ways to clear out harmful chemicals is with ventilation to the outdoors. But, with increased concern about climate change and interest in reducing energy use, builders are trying to make homes more airtight, which may inadvertently be worsening the problem. The researchers plan to continue looking at ways to reduce exposure to indoor air pollutants, such as using green building materials. "We have to balance making more energy efficient homes with protecting our health and cognitive function," Jobson said. (Source:

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