Healthy Home: Removing invisible toxins, contaminants

July 25, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
With our recent heat wave, and in the summer in general, the windows of our homes are typically kept closed this time of year. That could trap harmful toxins and contaminants in your home and continually circulate them through your home's ventilation system.

Jill Salisbury, from Susan Fredman Design Group in Chicago shares some tips to creating a healthy home and easy ways to remove invisible contaminants.

    Keep a clean air filter in your a/c unit
  • There are many air filters on the market. Brand name is probably the least important thing to consider in your buying decision, and most brands are interchangeable
  • If you are ordering replacement air filters you only need to know the dimensions of the filter you are replacing (length, width and thickness): Maintenance will vary. Follow manufacturer recommendations.
  • Recyclable Fiberglass Filter: $20 at Home Depot
    Fiberglass filters are not very efficient and will only trap the largest of dust particles, and don't even do a good job on those
    The purchase price may be lower (non-recyclable ones can be as little as $3) but the real cost is poor air quality
    They are disposable- changed once a month
    They are available at most hardware stores
  • Pleated-Electrostatic High-Efficiency Filter: $31.97 at Home Depot
    At only $10 more than Recyclable Fiberglass Filters, Pleated-Electrostatic High-Efficiency Filters are worth the extra money
    Most pleated air filters, which many are familiar with, are rated at 20 to 30 percent efficient and have a MERV 8 rating (The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, also known simply as MERV, measures the performance of air purifiers)
    For your home, look for MERV rating that is 9 or higher (13 ? 16 are hospital grade)
    When pleated styles are combined with electrostatic technology, it increases efficiency to 97.8% with MERV 12-13
    Also look for the highest Filter Performance Rating (FRP) possible (On a scale of 1-10, 10 is best)
    Electrostatic air filters remove dust particles from the air by using static electricity; They are more than 90 percent efficient and have very little impact on air flow in your heating or air conditioning equipment
    Create your own fresh air exchange
  • Indoor air quality tends (5-10 times more polluted than outdoor air)
  • Normally, it's advisable to open a window for a few minutes each day to allow fresh air to enter the home
  • In this heat, opening the window is not always an option
  • Independent HEPA room filtration is a great option
  • Rabbit Air MinusA2 Spa-700A: $459.95 at
    This model is great for creating fresh air room-by-room ? perhaps a baby's room, or the room of someone who suffers from severe allergies
    Don't be fooled by air purifiers that promote ion use
    As particles enter an air purifier, they receive an electrical charge; But with ionic air purifiers, there is no set of plates with an opposite charge to capture the particles
    The implication of this is that the charged particles will then adhere to the walls, carpeting, clothing, or any surface they can stick to
    If you are looking for allergy or asthma relief then an ionic air purifier is probably not a good choice, unless the air purifier also uses an effective filtration method, such as HEPA air filters to capture the charged particles
    According to Consumer Reports, Ionic Air filters can release unhealthy levels of ozone
    Buy safer cleaning products
  • Many natural cleaning and home products are now available and are very effective without harsh chemicals or fumes
  • Make sure you read the label and do a little research to make sure the company is making an honest claim; The following terms are not regulated: nontoxic, bio-based, chlorine-free, organic, phosphate-free, natural fragrance, and/or biodegradable
  • Or, purchase new technology that does away with the multitudes of cleaning bottles under the kitchen sink: Just fill this (ionizer - below) spray cleaner with tap water. As the water travels through the nozzle, it is charged with ions which converts the water at a molecular level into a sanitizer. It can be used on many surfaces to clean without chemicals. Kills harmful germs including E-Coli and H1N1.
  • Active Ion: $180 at
  • Various cleaning product bottles and sponges/pads:
    Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner ($4.50) ? buy at Whole Foods, some grocery stores or online
    Earth Friendly Products Furniture Polish ($5) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    Replenish Reusable Bottle System ($7.99) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    2am Miracle (green nursery cleaner) ($7.00) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    Twist Sponge Cloths ($3.25) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    Twist Scour Pads ($5.99) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    Twist Loofah Sponge ($3.00) ? buy at Whole Foods or online
    Take your shoes off at the door
  • 90 percent of dirt and contaminating particulates in our home are tracked in from our shoes
  • Take off your shoes at the door to prevent tracking pesticides and harmful chemicals indoors
  • Residues can cling to the bottoms of your shoes and then rub off on your carpet and rugs; Once there, they linger on because they're not exposed to the conditions that typically cause them to break down (sunlight, rain, soil microbes, etc.)
  • Children and pets, who play on the floor, are often exposed to these contaminants
    Use a test kit to check air quality
  • The most contaminated air is generally inside, where people spend roughly 90 percent of their time
  • A new easy-to-use technology allows you to test air quality in your home with a simple test
  • Mold, radon, VOC's, formaldehyde -- all will be detected with this handy, completely DIY test
  • While test kits might seem to be for those with a higher budget, it's worth noting that a professional air quality test costs well over $1,000
  • AirLab Test Kit: $289 at

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