Here’s what you can do about indoor air pollution

Believe it or not, the air quality inside your home can be worse than the air you breathe outside, especially in the months when the windows and doors are closed.

There are some simple steps you can take to improve the air you breathe.

While newer, more tightly sealed home construction improves energy efficiency and those heat and A/C bills, it can contribute to indoor pollution.

Where are pollutants coming from? Gas stoves are one potential source. Tests by Consumer Reports have found that they’re a possible source of toxicity and are cause for concern.

“Think ventilation,” said Consumer Reports’ Paul Hope. “Use your range hood while you’re cooking or open the window to get cleaner, outside air in.”

Other pollutants include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from cleaning agents, pesticides, aerosols, and even couches and carpets. They can irritate your throat, nose, and eyes, some may even cause cancer.

“Try not to use some of the harsh chemicals out there to clean your home. If you do use them, again, ventilate by opening the windows,” Hope said.

Buying mattresses and furnishings that are made with natural fibers, like cotton, can help, too. To help keep your home dust-free, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap contaminants, and clean or change the filters in your air conditioner.

Air purifiers can also help. Alen, Winix, and BlueAir models earn top marks in Consumer Reports tests and cost between $275 and $741.

You’ll likely smell another pollutant: mold. Often caused by humidity,it can cause rashes, flu-like symptoms, and eye and lung irritation. Consider a dehumidifier. Consumer Reports highly rates models from Honeywell, Midea and HomeLabs, and they cost between $200 and $320.

If the mold stems from a recent weather disaster, you might be eligible for federal assistance to fix the problem.

And what about carbon monoxide, the odorless, colorless, and sometimes fatal gas? Install a detector on every level of your home and outside each sleep area, even if you don’t have electric appliances.

Consumer Reports also recommends checking for radon, a radioactive gas that can seep into your home from water and soil. And if your house was built around 1980 or before, check for asbestos and lead. You may want to work with a professional to see what options you have to make sure your home is safe.

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