The White Glove Test

But wait a second, you say. We've been inhaling this stuff for years. Why are we getting so sick all of a sudden? Much of it can be attributed to modern construction methods. In the name of energy efficiency, newer houses are extremely airtight, which cuts down on heating costs but also prevents a healthy exchange between stale indoor and fresh outdoor air. Add to that the fact that in this age of central air-conditioning, hardly anyone cracks open a window anymore.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve the quality of your indoor air, and they don't all require a visit from a Hazmat-suited pro. Start by keeping your house clean. Regular vacuuming and dusting gets rid of dust mites, pet dander, and tracked-in allergens. A vacuum with a HEPA-filter traps smaller particles that other vacuums exhaust back into the air. Get a slipcover for your sofa, wash it frequently, and don't let the dog up there, no matter how sad those big brown eyes look. In the bathroom, check the walls, shower curtain, and under the sink for mold and mildew, and wash towels and bath mats at least once a week. Inspect your kitchen for mold, too—especially under-sink cabinets and the refrigerator drip tray—and make sure cleaning products are well sealed, because they can leak VOCs.

When not properly maintained, HVAC systems can become breeding grounds for mold. "In most buildings and homes, the air handlers just aren't kept up," says Bill Eva, a senior industrial hygienist with an air-quality consulting company in Clearwater, Florida. "People don't realize how important it is to keep them clean." Eva recommends changing filters and cleaning coils regularly.

To combat carbon monoxide, shell out $30 for a detector. If readings are above 10 parts per million, get on the horn to your utility company, as your furnace or gas stove might be damaged or working improperly. You can also pick up a radon testing kit at your local hardware store for about $35. If the gas is present, you might need to seal up cracks in your foundation to stop it from seeping through.
Ask TOH users about Healthy Home

Contribute to This Story Below