Anna Maltby, SELF magazine
If you've opened a SkyMall lately, you know there are dozens of products out there designed to clean indoor air. But do they actually work? We asked the experts what you really need.
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1. A high-efficiency disposable MERV (minimal efficiency value reporting) HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system) air filter in your home. Pardon the alphabet soup! All we mean is that you should hit up the hardware store and look for those words on a disposable filter you can install in your air system. They cost about $10 to $20, and you should replace them every three months and have your HVAC system serviced once a year. The filter will help reduce fine particles and allergens
by forcing air through tightly woven fibers that can trap even super-small particles. It'll also save you money on a whole-house HEPA (that's high-efficiency particulate air) system, which can cost thousands.
2. Freestanding HEPA cleaners for your bedroom and living room, if you don't have central heat and air. Avoid cleaners that say they "ionize" the air, though: "These units actually release ozone into your home," says allergist James Sublett, M.D., chairman of the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Indoor Environment Committee. (Experts aren't sure how much ozone other ionizing tools, like hair dryers, release, but it's not likely enough to cause concern. Blow dry with abandon!).
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3. A carbon monoxide detector. It's an absolute must to have one and keep batteries fresh: "Carbon monoxide can be deadly, but many people don't realize that even a small amount of CO can produce symptoms like fatigue and chronic headaches," Sublett says. And have your gas company inspect gas appliances such as your stove at least once a year, too, since some low-grade leaks may not trigger your detector.
4. A hygrometer. This cheap ($10-30) device measures your humidity level bacteria growth, Sublett says. Humidifiers can increase mold, Sublett says, so if humidity is low, simply place a pan or bowl of water (change it out every day) in each room the water will evaporate and increase the moisture in the air to a more comfortable level. If you prefer faster action, choose a cool-mist humidifier, and clean it regularly.
5. A doormat. It's not just to make your guests feel welcome! Wiping dirt and dust from your shoes before going inside can significantly reduce the amount of fine particles you bring inside, Sublett says. Even better: instituting a no-shoes-inside policy.
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How's Your Air Supply
Crime down? Lots of docs? Great! But how does your town rate on air? These are the best and worst cities for air in the U.S. (See how yours ranks on pollution, and other health issues, here).
- Northeast: Portland, ME
- Southeast: Daytona Beach, FL
- Midwest: Sioux Falls, SD
- Southwest: Tucson, AZ
- West: Cheyenne, WY
- Northeast: New Haven, CT
- Southeast: Knoxville, TN
- Midwest: Saint Louis, MO
- Southwest: Phoenix, AZ
- West: Los Angeles, CA