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Consumer Reports: How to protect yourself from indoor air pollution and other hidden home hazards

Posted at 6:59 AM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 07:59:50-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF/CONSUMER REPORTS) — Believe it or not, the air quality inside your home can be worse than the air you breathe outside. Especially in the colder months when we keep our windows and doors shut, the air can get pretty bad inside. But there are some simple things you can do to improve that air quality.

While newer, more tightly sealed home construction improves energy efficiency, Consumer Reports says it is also partly to blame for indoor pollutants.

Where are they coming from? Gas stoves for one. Tests by Consumer Reports confirm they’re a possible source of toxicity and are cause for concern.

So, what can you do?

"Think ventilation! Use your range hood while you’re cooking or open the window to get the cleaner, outside air in," said Paul Hope with Consumer Reports.

Other pollutants? VOCs or volatile organic compounds emitted from cleaning agents, pesticides, aerosols, even couches and carpets. Irritants to your throat, nose, and eyes, some may even cause cancer. The solution?

“Try not to use some of the harsh chemicals out there to clean your home. If you do use them, again ventilate, and open the windows!" Hope said.

Buy mattresses and furnishings that use natural fibers, like cotton. Keep your home dust free — use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap contaminants, and clean or change the filters in your air conditioner.

Air purifiers can also help. Alen, Winix and BlueAir models earn top marks in Consumer Reports tests and will run between $275 and $741.

You’ll likely smell our next pollutant: mold!

Often caused by humidity, it can cause rashes, flu-like symptoms, eye and lung irritation. Consider a dehumidifier. Consumer Reports highly rates Honeywell, Midea and hOmeLabs, and will run between $200 and $320.

If your mold stems from a recent weather disaster you might be eligible for federal assistance. Check out this website for details.

That odorless, colorless, sometimes fatal gas, Carbon Monoxide? Install a detector on every level of your home and outside each sleeping area.

You'll also want to check for radon, a radioactive gas that can seep into your home from water and soil. If your house was built in 1980 or before, also check for asbestos and lead. Higher than safe levels of radon are often found in homes in Middle Tennessee — about a quarter of all homes tested. You can get a free radon test to check your levels from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. You can find more information on this on the department's website.