According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air. Research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. It's also true that, unlike so many other forms of pollution, indoor air pollution is relatively easy to correct.
Some common sources of indoor air pollution include new carpet; paint; mold and mildew build up, particularly in ventilation systems; tobacco smoke; restroom air fresheners; chemicals emitted by copying machines; and formaldehyde and other chemicals that can seep out of pressed-wood products like particleboard, plywood paneling, and fiber-board.
- Circulate the air. Wherever possible, select offices whose windows open _ and crack them open every now and then. If you install new carpeting or cabinets at home or in the office, open windows and turn on fans until the new smells dissipate. Make sure that copying machines and other equipment are located in rooms that are properly ventilated.
- Consider the alternatives. Many chemically-sensitive consumers opt for carpet made from wool or cotton rather than synthetic fibers; others choose cabinets made from solid wood and finished with water-based varnishes rather than those constructed from particleboard or fiberboard.
- Keep it clean. Rather than use synthetic air fresheners to mask an unpleasant odor, find the source of the odor, and clean it up. Then open the windows for fresh air, or use flowers or potpourri to add a more natural scent to your room. If necessary, install air filters and purifiers and other air cleaning devices.
- Ask smokers to smoke outside. It is not unreasonable to ask visitors to your home to take a smoking break out of doors. Many offices have already instituted a smoking policy that minimizes nonsmoker exposure to environmental tobacco smoke; if yours hasn't, broach the topic with your office manager.
- Speak up. If you or others at your office are experiencing health or comfort problems that you suspect may be caused by indoor air pollution, discuss the issue with your supervisor. Talk with your own physician and report your problems to the company physician, nurse, or health officer so that they can make appropriate recommendations.
According to a two-year study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), many indoor plants absorb air pollutants through their leaves and roots and convert them into breathable air.
Within 24 hours, some plants can remove up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air.
Depending on the species, one plant can provide effective cleaning for every 100 square feet of space. For example, between 15 and 20 golden pothos and spider plants can refresh the air in an average 1,800 square-foot home.
Plants work equally well in homes, offices, and factories, as long as their requirements for sunlight, water, and soil are met.