Improving Your Indoor Environment

During the 1960’s and 1970’s much of our nation’s focus was on the pollution of our outdoor environment, but recently our focus has shifted to pollution of our indoor environment.

Concern for fuel economy in the early 1970’s led to changes in construction techniques and building design to prevent the loss of temperature-controlled air from buildings. Airtight structures keep air inside, but they also prevent the flow of fresh air from outside. Research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that our indoor environment has two to five times more pollutants than outside air.

The quality of our indoor air has become more important to us in recent years in that the average American spends over 20 hours a day inside a closed structure. We spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. Heightened consumer health awareness has placed an emphasis on improving the quality of our indoor environment.

Carpet plays a vital, positive role in indoor air quality. It acts as an environmental filter, trapping and holding impurities from the air we breathe. The EPA and carpet industry findings indicate that with proper ventilation of new carpet, carpet itself does not contribute negatively to indoor air quality, but the buildup of soil in carpet does. Upholstery fabric also harbors soil and contaminants.

According to Michael A. Berry, Ph.d., former Deputy Director for the EPA Environmental Criteria and Assessment Office, the single leading cause of poor indoor air quality in built environments today is poor maintenance. Carpet and upholstery must be cleaned to remove trapped contaminants before they overflow and are released back into the indoor air.

For a healthier indoor environment, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) recommends:

- Vacuum frequently. A vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency filtration bag removes soils and bio-contaminants from carpet and upholstery and reduces the release of respirable particles into the air. These bags are now available for most models of vacuum cleaners at retail stores that carry vacuum cleaners and accessories.
- Periodically schedule a carpet and upholstery cleaning. Thorough cleaning carpet and upholstery removes soil and pollutants to improve indoor air quality.
- Control the sources. Entrance mats halt tracked-in soil and contaminants. Tobacco smoke, which is trapped in carpet and upholstery fabric, is a major source of indoor pollution.
- Increase fresh air flow.
- Clean for health. Carpet and upholstery fabric hide soil. Don’t just clean carpets and upholstery for appearance when the accumulation of soil becomes visible.