Mother Earth Living

Check Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality is anywhere from two to five times more hazardous than outdoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Take our quiz for some hints about clearing the air at home. 

1. What are symptoms of poor air quality inside your home?

a) frequent congestion, sneezing, watery eyes
b) scratchy throat
c) recurrent headaches or tiredness
d) all of the above

2. Which of these can cause children to suffer bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and more severe asthma attacks?

a) asbestos
b) secondhand tobacco smoke
c) radon 

3. Synthetic carpets continue to outgas toxic chemicals at ­significant levels for how long after installation?

a) three months
b) one year
c) three years 

4. _____ is a common indoor air pollutant.

a) formaldehyde
b) helium
c) mercury 

5. True or false?

Aerosol air fresheners improve air quality.


1. d. All of the above. If you experience these health problems, be sure your home has adequate ventilation, install air filters, stop using toxic household cleaners, and evaluate sources of toxins, pesticides, mold, and fumes in your home. (

2. b. Tobacco smoke. The American Lung Association estimates 200,000 to 1 million asthmatic children become sicker when exposed to it. Don’t allow family or visitors to smoke anywhere in your home or car. Moving to another room or opening a window is not enough to protect children. (EPA)

3. c. Up to three years. Although the most active outgassing occurs during the first three months, toxic chemicals from petroleum-based fibers, dyes, ­synthetic backing, adhesives, fire retardants, and anti-static and stain-resistant treatments can be significant for much longer. (Green Resource Center)

4. a. Formaldehyde, a possible carcinogen. The most significant home sources of formaldehyde are pressed wood products: medium-density fiberboard (used for drawer fronts, cabinets, and furniture tops), particleboard (used in subflooring, shelving, cabinetry, ­furniture), and hardwood plywood paneling. Other sources: permanent-press fabrics, gas stoves, kerosene space heaters. (EPA)

5. False. Fresheners don’t make odors disappear, they just cover up scents with synthetic perfumes. They may even interfere with your ability to smell by coating your nasal passages with an oil film or by releasing a nerve-deadening agent. (UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, February, 2000)

  • Published on Jan 1, 2004
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