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Improve indoor air quality

Q. My family has bad allergies and I’d like to improve our indoor air quality. What are some steps I should take?

The Environmental Protection Agency lists three basic strategies for improving indoor air: source control, improved ventilation and air cleaners.

Source control, whereby emissions from individual sources of pollution are eliminated or reduced, is typically the most effective strategy. This could include finding somewhere outside the home to store old paint and construction supplies.

If sources of pollution are beyond your control, bring in more air from outside.

“Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced-air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house,” the EPA warns. “Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate.”

The agency adds that local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors also remove contaminants while increasing the outdoor air ventilation rate.

Air cleaners (either mechanical filters or electronic cleaners) can also help reduce or remove some forms of indoor air pollution.

“People with sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source,” the EPA reports.

The agency’s free online “Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home” compares the general types of residential air cleaners and their effectiveness in reducing pollutants including particles and gaseous contaminants.

Some of us swear by our houseplants for keeping our indoor air free of pollutants.

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