Your kitchen isn’t properly ventilated
If your stove uses gas, you could be raising the level of toxic fumes while you’re cooking without even knowing it. “Carbon monoxide, a deadly gas released from gas stoves and ovens, can quickly build up in your kitchen, especially without proper ventilation,” Adler says. “Some studies suggest that about half of all gas stoves can raise carbon monoxide to dangerous levels.” If you have an electric stove, you’re not totally in the clear either: Some research has found the simple process of cooking can create fumes as well as fine particles that affect indoor air quality. Make sure you use your hood vent (ideally vented to the outside) or open your windows to properly ventilate and avoid the dangerous gasses, Adler says.
You use plastic shower curtains
That plastic-y smell a vinyl shower curtain—or liner—is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs). At high enough concentrations, they can irritate your respiratory tract as well as cause long-term damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “VOCs are released from a wide variety of sources in our homes: flooring, paints, cabinetry, furniture, carpeting, and even vinyl shower curtains,” Adler says. “Swapping a vinyl shower curtain with a polyester one is a simple but effective way to reduce VOCs.”
Plastic shower curtains can also harbor harmful mold and mildew. “Mildew is not necessarily black or brown or gray—it can also be the pink and orange stuff,” says Melissa Maker, founder of Canadian cleaning service Clean My Space and host of the CleanMySpace YouTube Channel. “Turn your fan on and let it run for 30 minutes after you get out of the shower.” Also, close your curtain after showering, instead of leaving it scrunched to one side, to let it dry out, Maker says. In addition, another reason to avoid plastic shower curtains is to get one that’s machine-washable. These are the 13 best cleaning products for people with allergies.
You don’t use a HEPA air filter
This one measure can improve your indoor air quality immensely. “The EPA has found that indoor air quality can be five to ten times worse than outdoor air, and poor indoor air quality can lead to or exacerbate respiratory issues like asthma and allergies,” Adler says, adding that air filtration units are a great tool in improving air quality inside the home. In order for it to be effective, however, it should use both HEPA filters and activated carbon filtration: HEPA filters remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles down to 0.3 microns in size but won’t remove any VOCs like formaldehyde, benzene, or solvents as these are gaseous; for these, you need an activated carbon filter. The Alen BreatheSmart 75i air purifier has both types of filters, absorbing secondhand smoke, harmful chemicals, cooking byproducts and other airborne impurities in addition to particles that trigger asthma and allergies. And make sure you clean and change every filter—including those for your furnace, HVAC, and even vacuum cleaner—regularly, Maker says.