How to ensure your home is a breath of fresh air

Jun 18, 2010 by

Pollution from industry and motor vehicles are well-known contributors to outdoor air  pollution, but it’s less well known that indoor air can be up to 10 times worse for us than the air outside. Since we spend an average of 90% of our time indoors and 65% of our time inside our homes that can add up to allergies, asthma and worse. What causes indoor air pollution and what can we do to lessen the pollution in our homes and offices?

Pollution sources

Indoor pollution sources that release gases and particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in our homes. Everything that comes into our homes has the potential to affect our health; including the materials our houses are built from, the furniture we sleep on, the paint on the walls and the products we clean our homes with. Combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products are culprits when it comes to poor quality indoor air. Other culprits are the chemicals that are released from the furnishing and fittings such as the polyurethane common in mattresses, formaldehyde and organic chemicals like dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) commonly found in furniture and other interior elements. Curtains, carpets and other absorbent fabrics also help trap these toxins, along with dust, mites and other allergens, and our modern, mostly airtight homes keep them inside. Poor ventilation can help promote mould and other microbial growth, especially in damp climates. If cellulosic materials (like paper, wood and drywall) become moist and don’t dry within 48 hours, mould colonies can propagate and release allergenic spores into the air.

Ironically the products we use to clean our homes often contain chemicals and VOC’s (Volatile organic compounds) that hang around on surfaces and in the air, making our ‘clean’ homes toxic. Remember this: if there are chemicals and VOCs in a product, there are chemicals and VOCs that could come out, and they won’t be good for you if they do. Chemical residues and pesticides can remain in the air long after their use. This includes chemical products like glues and spray paints that are used for hobbies.

Poor indoor air quality can also be worsened by outdoor factors. Radon, a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas can enter your home from outside, as can pollutants from cars, pesticides and other industries.

Indoor Air Pollution and Health

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures and are usually short-term and treatable. Symptoms include:

  • irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.

Certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases, so it is often difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the time and place symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from home, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes.

Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects can be fatal and include:

  • respiratory diseases
  • heart disease
  • cancer

In many cases eliminating exposure to the pollution source is effective and a lessening of symptoms is noticeable and continuously improves over time. Many people dont want to risk their health and pay attention to improving the indoor air quality in their home even if symptoms are not noticeable.

Managing indoor air pollution

There are several things we can do to make our indoor air healthier.

At the top of the list is maintaining proper ventilation, which can be done most easily by just opening up the windows at regular intervals (even in the winter). Even though outdoor air pollutants do enter the home through open windows it is generally still better to have natural ventilation than to have an airtight home or office.

Using non-toxic natural household cleaners instead of chemical household cleaners. Most natural household cleaners are also biodegradable which makes them much healthier for the air, water and soil outside the home also.

Keeping pesticides out of your garden and off your lawn ensures that you don’t walk them into your home on your shoes and clothing, or have them blown in through the windows.

Keep filters and vents clean, as pollutants can cycle through air ducts, central heating, and cooling mechanisms. Indoor plants can also help purify the air by taking in carbon dioxide and some of the airborne pollutants to produce oxygen. Common plants that can be used are:

  • Spider plant, also known as airplane plant (Chlorophytum comosum ‘vittatum’)
  • Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum species)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum ‘Silver Queen’)
  • Fern (Pteris species and Nephrolepsis species)
  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)

Herbs can also be used to filter the air, and many can easily be grown indoors year-round. Basil, thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, mints and geraniums are just some herbs that help to clean the air with the added benefit of adding aromatic properties of their own.

Another way to ensure that your health is not compromised by indoor air pollution is to buy a good Air Purifier, which will remove the harmful airborne pollutants from your breathing space. For a worthwhile investment, a good air purifier can save you and your family the risk and expense of respiratory ailments now and in the future. The Airwise is a great Air Purifier and uses the most up-to-date photocatalytic process which outperforms all previous purification methods including HEPA filters, Electrostatic filters, Ozone, UV and Ionizers. The Airwise is excellent at successfully purifying the air of mould, bacteria, dust mites, gases, odours, smoke, VOCs, and Pet Dander. It also generates active negative ions which enhance the speed at which dust and other airborne particles are removed from the breathing space.

The bottom line is that if the air in your home is not pure then you will never be as healthy as you could be.

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