Higher summertime levels of outdoor ground-level ozone, microscopic particle pollution like smoke and smog, as well as other air pollutants may cause anyone who is sensitive to these airborne contaminants to experience shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, and may also trigger asthma attacks and cause lung irritation(1).
According to AIRNow.gov(2), a government-developed index for reporting daily air quality, cities in Texas, including the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, are presently experiencing a code orange(3) bad air day with the air quality index showing unhealthy levels of ozone.
"Persons who are particularly susceptible to these effects, such as children, the elderly and those with respiratory problems, need to be aware of outdoor levels of air pollution," said Dr. Neil Schachter, past president of the American Lung Association of the City of New York and author of Life and Breath. "Even those who are healthy should avoid long-term outdoor exposure on a bad air day."
But, we also need to pay attention to indoor air quality as well. Although there is the potential for outdoor particles to make their way inside the home, many other particles start in the home and stay there unless you have a way to reduce them, notes Steve Ramos, featured home inspector on HGTV's House Detective. According to the EPA, indoor levels of some pollutants may be two to five times higher than outdoor levels.
"If you're trying to avoid outdoor pollution by staying indoors, take the proper steps to help improve the air quality in your home," said Ramos. "Remember to follow the four C's - Control, Change, Close and Clean - to help reduce indoor air pollutants."
- CONTROL or limit tracking pollutants from the outdoors into the home by leaving your shoes at the door. To increase your airflow and help control humidity levels, move furniture away from walls and opening closet doors. Finally, identify known outdoor allergen sources and remove them from landscaping around the home.
- CHANGE your old vacuum bag with one that contains a HEPA filter. Cheap vacuum bags can stir up pollutants when vacuuming. Whenever possible, replace carpet with hard surface flooring or area rugs that can be easily cleaned. Also, upgrade air filters to a high-performance filter, such as a Filtrete filter from 3M, and change your air filter every three months. A good way to remember this is to change the filter at the start of every season.
- CLOSE any gaps, such as those connecting to exhaust fans, which can allow pollutants or water to spread in the home. Pay specific attention to the kitchen, bathrooms and areas that surround the home to ensure condensation or standing water doesn't lead to mold growth. A leaky roof increases the probability that mold will grow in the home, so seal around all vents, skylights and chimneys.
- CLEAN and groom any pets on a regular basis to help keep pet dander at bay. Whenever possible, keep your pets out of the bedroom and off your bed. Be sure to regularly wash bedding and linens at high heats - approximately 140 degrees Fahrenheit - to help keep dust mites from collecting on your bedding. You should also regularly dust the blinds and wash your curtains.
To check your city's outdoor air quality on a daily basis, visit AIRNow.gov. For more tips on improving your indoor air quality, and to enter to win a home inspection - including an air quality assessment - with House Detective Steve Ramos plus $10,000, visit www.Filtrete.com.
(1) American Lung Association
(2) The U.S. EPA, NOAA, NPS, tribal, state, and local agencies developed the AIRNow.gov to provide the public with easy access to national air quality information
(3) According to AirNow.gov, code orange means the air is unhealthy for sensitive groups