It's getting cold (in most parts of the country). As we collectively turn our attention to chunky sweaters and cozy blankets, pause for a minute before you shut all of the windows.
Closing windows provides warmth and saves energy, but it also traps in pollutants. It's counterintuitive, but indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air, even in urban environments. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air quality is one of the top five environmental health concerns. The simple act of opening a window — even in cold weather — can drastically reduce this pollution.
Are you wondering where all of this indoor air pollution comes from? It's a long list of offenders that includes building materials, furnishings, air fresheners, unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, paints, cleaning products, care products, pesticides, and more.
Some of the most common pollutants are known cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde, allergens like dander and dust mites, and, according to a 2012 report by leading global interdisciplinary design firm Perkins+Will, 374 substances that are known or suspected asthmagens.
Given that we all — cold or not — spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, it’s critical to do what you can to reduce indoor air pollution, especially if you have children.
So throw open a window. What could be simpler? Even when it’s chilly outside, you should open a window for at least five minutes a day to significantly decrease the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house. Manual is the way to go.
Looking for other ways to decrease indoor air pollution? Read on and breathe easy.