Improving Home Air Quality

Keep those pesky indoor allegrens at bay to stay sneeze free.

Inside Allergens
Dallas bad air is notorious. Making certain changes inside your house can dramatically ease the suffering.


When it comes to air quality, Dallas is almost always one of the nation’s worst places to live. We’ve got more than our fair share of airborne irritants, including pollen, mold, and mildew; high levels of nasty auto emissions; and (gasp) that’s before factoring in household dust, pet dander, and assorted insect droppings.

I personally got the bad news after visiting two allergy specialists and enduring countless tests. Apparently, my stewpot of allergies includes everything from mesquite trees to common dust and mold: A double whammy, problems outdoors and in. Of course, in Dallas, this range of allergies is typical.

Years of shots, nasal sprays, and countless Claritin tabs later, I began looking into the home-based approaches also recommended by specialists. I discovered that by eliminating the big culprits inside my home I was much more comfortable. This isn’t to suggest that you should stop taking your custom compounded allergy medications; just add the following tips to your indoor defense arsenal. By utilizing effective air filtration and tuning up my cleaning regimen I haven’t prevented every sneeze, but I’ve made real progress in my battle against allergy distress.

The key offenders, many ushered in from outside, reside in all the likely places. They’re in the carpets, curtains, closets, bookshelves, and damp areas. The challenge is to remove them from your environment before they settle in and without stirring them up.

Air Filtration
One of the most confusing yet effective steps in improving home air quality is air filtration, through both central and portable units. It is estimated that more than 95 percent of airborne irritants can be filtered out of household air. But with all the different advertising claims, how do you know which product really works? HEPA, Ultra HEPA, or electrostatic filters? Ionizing or ozone air cleaners? Sorting through all the options is a nightmare.

Fortunately, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) has introduced an air cleaner rating system for portable systems. The Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) measures how effectively different portable air cleaners reduce pollutants like pollen, dust, or smoke. An easy-to-read seal is placed on the outside packaging of every certified unit – virtually eliminating the technical mysteries for consumers. All you have to know is the size of the room.

Similarly, for higher capacity and centralized forced air systems, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has established an effectiveness rating system designed to assess the removal of small airborne particles.

These systems dramatically reduce the guesswork. Always inquire about specific product ratings and what they signify. Whatever you choose, change filters regularly ( at least once a month) and carefully follow all maintenance instructions.

Cleaning Regime
Certain larger-particle irritants (like pet dander) escape air filters by settling into carpets and furniture. Consequently, it’s important to thoroughly clean floors and surface areas often. Pay extra attention to bedrooms. 

Vacuum using a HEPA filter. Don’t sweep – that just stirs up the dust. Hardwoods and tile are better than carpet in helping to keep your house allergen-free.

Always mop or dust with a damp cloth. 

Avoid scented and aerosol spray cleaning products, as they may contain irritants. Use trigger sprays whenever possible.

Keep humidity low by using air conditioning and/or dehumidifiers. Change dehumidifier water daily, and clean with a weak bleach solution (1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water).

Encase all bedding in allergen-proof fabric or airtight, zippered plastic. Use synthetic mattress pads and pillows, and avoid feather stuffed comforters and fuzzy wool blankets. Wash bedding weekly in hot water (130 degrees).

Fix leaky faucets (shower and bath) and improve ventilation in any damp areas. Clean mold with a weak bleach-and-water solution.

Make sure clothes dryer and bathrooms are vented directly outside.

Wash pets weekly.

In the final analysis, you may still need to take seasonal allergy medications, but for big time sneezers and wheezers like me, cleaning out allergens at home will give you a jump start on clearing up many of your symptoms.


Hazards of Ozone Air Purifiers

If you are relying on ozone air purifiers for cleaner, healthier air inside your home, think again.
It’s no secret that high levels of indoor ozone emitted by air purifiers may trigger asthma and exacerbate the effects of mold and pollen, but their effects might be worse than feared. In May, 2005, Consumer Reports found that chemicals in some cleaning products and air fresheners may react with indoor ozone to create formaldehyde (a known carcinogen).

Neither the EPA nor the FDA set limits for indoor ozone output from air cleaners. Several of the units tested were found to emit ozone exceeding the outdoor limits that have been established  -creating potentially harmful levels.

Consumer Reports found that five cleaners performed poorly in its tests. Specifically, the IonizAir P4620 and Surround Air XJ 2000 emitted ozone beyond potentially harmful levels. Other air cleaners testing low include the Brookstone Pure-Ion V2, the Sharper Image Professional Series Ionic Breeze Quadra SI737 SNX, and the Ionic Pro Cl-369. Conversely, the magazine’s tests found the Friedrich C-90A and the HEPA filter Whirlpool 45030 emitted very little ozone and did well in cleaning the air.


Helpful Web Sites

Environmental Protection Agency:

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology:

About Allergies:

E-Medicine Consumer Health:

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers: