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Protecting Your Lungs: Air Quality and Indoor DIY Projects

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Do-it-yourself (DIY) home projects can not only be fun, but they can also help you save money when decorating or renovating your home. While some projects are best left to the professionals, many projects can be tackled by the average homeowner. When doing DIY projects, however, you want to educate yourself not only about the safety of the tools you’ll be using, but also in how the project can impact indoor air quality for yourself, your family, and your pets. 

Paints and Stains

Whether you’re painting walls or staining a piece of wood furniture, you want to understand how these chemicals impact the air in your home. Many paints and stains contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), solvents that can release into the air as the paint dries. In the United States, the government sets limits on how many VOCs (measured in grams per liter) are acceptable for interior use. Even acceptable levels can cause adverse effects, including headaches and dizziness, in people who are sensitive to them.

Some paint manufacturers are offering low VOC paints, which can lessen these effects. Be sure to always use paint and stain marked for interior use. No matter which type of interior paint or stain you are using, properly ventilate your space by opening windows in a pattern that provides a gentle crosswind. Where possible, paint or stain outside.

Wood and Other Materials

Not all materials are meant to be used inside. Treated woods — such as those used in pallets, railroad ties, and some outdoor furniture — are often treated with chemicals to decrease the impact of weather and insects. In the case of pallets, even if not treated directly with chemicals, their one-time cargo may have been (such as a pesticide spray on a pallet carrying fruit). Bringing these treated woods into a home for a DIY project — and having the finished product remain inside — can release toxic chemicals into the air on a daily basis.

Pay attention to the materials you bring into your home for your latest DIY project. Make sure the wood or other materials are appropriate for indoor use.

Evaluate Long-Term Air Quality

Unless you are dedicated to keeping all chemicals out of your home, they will be present in everyday materials such as furniture, paints, cleaning agents, rugs, appliances, and decor. This presence is normal in a modern home, but take care to make sure that the air quality in your house is appropriate for you, your family, and your pets. You can achieve this goal by focusing on your home’s HVAC system and the role it plays in maintaining air quality.

One of the easiest ways to keep clean air circulating through a home is by regularly changing your HVAC system’s air filters. Another way is to make sure your HVAC system is regularly maintained and kept in good working order. A well-functioning HVAC system will keep air moving from room to room, and fresh air filters will help to scrub the air of particulates and toxins.

DIY projects are rewarding and fun, but they can impact your home’s indoor air quality. With the tips above, you can protect your lungs and still enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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