Inside the Breathing Zone

Many people are familiar with the harmful effects of outdoor air pollution. In metropolitan areas, for example, air quality is color coded to assist those with respiratory sensitivities. Those with allergies and asthma monitor pollen count, and smog is easy to pinpoint.

Unfortunately, few people are familiar with the dangers lurking inside their own homes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the air inside homes has about two to five times more organic pollutants than outdoor air. The figure is alarming for people with a healthy respiratory system, but even more so for people who already have damaged or sensitive airways or lungs.

People with COPD or asthma "are the canaries in the mine," says Allen Rathey, president of The Health House Institute in Bosie, Idaho, which provides consumers with information to make their homes healthier. "They're probably the ones that are letting the rest of us know that there's a problem with our air."

In fact, Rathey says that what people do at home makes a big difference in how they manage their respiratory conditions.