Three Myths About Indoor Air Busted

Three Indoor Air Myths Busted

Check out these three common beliefs about indoor air quality and get the surprising facts.

#1:  Indoor air is much cleaner than outdoor air.

Sadly, this isn’t true for the vast majority of us in the US. A recent survey found that most people believe their indoor air is cleaner than outdoor air. While it’s hard to believe, indoor air has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air. For the most part, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are to blame. These VOCs come from many sources many of which you simply wouldn’t expect like cleaning products, carpets, perfumes, air fresheners, upholstered furniture, pesticides, pressed wood furniture, paint and more. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.

See a room by room view of air contaminants to understand the sources. Learn more about the five ways to improve your indoor air quality (some are really easy). Understand which cleaning products and paints will create fewer indoor air problems for you. Sign up for The Zen of Pure Living 12 week email series on creating a healthier home the Zen Master’s way.

#2:  Dusting isn’t really that important.

I was actually pretty upset when I discovered that this isn’t true because it’s always been at the bottom of my list. Well, it may be time to pay more attention to dusting especially if you live with young children. Here’s why. Chemical flame retardants escape from many products and settle into household dust. The products with flame retardants include electronic devices (computers, TVs) and anything made with polyurethane foam (sofa cushions, mattresses, pillows, car seats), among many others. To think that all this time my cleaning has been focused on eradicating germs when I probably should have devoted just a bit more time to cleaning up toxic dust.

The flame retardant dust can be inhaled or even ingested mostly by small children who put everything into their mouths. Neither is good. The EPA “is concerned that certain flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and decaBDE are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic to both humans and the environment.” Enough said.

Learn how to reduce the levels of dust without dusting (yes, it’s true, there is a way). And try to dust more often. I’m trying…really.

#3:  Cleaning products labeled as Green or All Natural are healthier and better for the environment.

Unfortunately, Green and All Natural are simply marketing terms, and no regulation exists around the use of these terms. In a 2010 study of consumer products (shampoo, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, laundry detergent, and more), 25 products were evaluated and 11 made some claim of “green” such as “organic”, “non-toxic”, or “natural” on their labeling.

Each of the “green” products emitted at least two VOCs classified as toxic or hazardous and four emitted at least one carcinogen. When the 11 so-called green products were compared to the 14 other products, no statistically significant difference was found between the number of chemicals classified as toxic or hazardous, or the number of carcinogens. Sigh.

Read more about why you cannot rely on the cleaning and laundry product labels regulated by the CPSC. Learn how to find safer, less toxic products.


Steinemann AC, et al., Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted, Environ Impact Asses Rev (2010), doi:10:1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002.

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