Skip to content

Indoor Air Pollution: Decrease Exposure

How can we decrease our exposure to these pollutants?

Because of the uncertainties and further research needed in this area, it is important to try to minimize your exposure to these gases and particulates as a preventive health measure.

  • Use exhaust fans vented to the outside when using gas stoves. Keep gas appliances adjusted properly.

  • If using an unvented kerosene or gas space heater, follow directions carefully. A continuous "yellow tipped" flame indicates faulty adjustment, which causes more pollutant emissions. Consider purchasing a vented space heater. Keep windows slightly opened and doors open when using non-vented space heaters.

  • Always keep the flue open when gas or wood fireplaces are in use.

  • There are new wood-burning stoves certified to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's emission standards. Make sure that the stove is properly installed, and glass doors are tightly fitted. Never burn chemically treated wood.

  • Have a professional inspect and clean central heating systems, including chimneys, flues, and furnaces.

  • All furnaces should be vented to the outside. Change filters as indicated by the manufacturer.

  • Work with organic compounds outside or in well ventilated areas. Follow manufacturers' directions carefully, and be cautious in storing these containers. Buy only the amount needed for a particular use, then dispose of the remains safely. Methylene chloride, found in paint strippers, aerosol spray paints and other products, is known to cause cancer in animals.

  • Purchase pressed wood products labeled "exterior grade" to decrease formaldehyde exposure. These do not emit as many pollutants because they contain phenol resins, not urea resins. Keep windows open whenever possible to increase ventilation. Increased humidity and high temperatures can increase the release of formaldehyde; therefore, a dehumidifier can be helpful where high humidity is common. Over time, the amount of formaldehyde released from products decreases. In 1985 the Department of Housing and Urban Development placed strict guidelines on the amount of formaldehyde that can be emitted from construction materials in prefabricated and mobile homes.

  • Try to improve the overall ventilation within your home. It is helpful to open windows and doors as weather permits. Heat recovery ventilators (air-to-air heat exchangers) are an excellent, energy-efficient way to bring outside air into the home. These systems are available in portable window units or can be added to the central air system.

  • Any smoking should be done only outside of the home and care, even when others are not present, due to continuing effects from second-hand and third-hand smoke.  Smoking jackets can be worn then changed after returning indoors in order to minimize third-hand smoke exposure.


This information has been approved by Nathan Rabinovitch, MD  (January 2016).