Air pollution has long been one of the biggest challenges this planet has faced and will continue to face in the years to come. The term air pollution evokes gray-scapes of smog-filled skies, giant industrial funnels billowing plumes of dirty smoke into the air, and streets rendered nearly colorless by the fumes of a million exhaust pipes.
Given what we know about industrialization and man-made pollution, logic dictates that indoor air quality HAS to be much better, right?
A 2005 study by Johns Hopkins University revealed that indoor air quality (IAQ) is actually worse: the outdoor quality of air is actually the baseline, which is then augmented by the level of pollution inside the house, making it far more potent. Indoor air pollution can be caused by allergens such as dust, mold, and pet dander, radon, and chemicals found in synthetic fragrances, paint, cleaners and furniture. Indoor air quality can, in fact, have adverse short-term and long-term effects on the health and general well-being of inhabitants. The term “sick building syndrome” has been coined as a blanket definition for poor health effects that are a result of excessive time spent in a building.
Therefore, regulating and maintaining the quality of indoor air is critical: the EPA has identified a wide range of indoor air pollution sources and their effects, and has proposed best practices and standards for homes to maintain their indoor air quality.
In this article, we’ll look at 5 ways in which homeowners can improve indoor air quality.
1. Bring the Fresh Air Inside
The simplest and the most obvious thing you can do to lower indoor air pollutants is to increase the amount of outdoor air entering your home. There’s a reason why we go outside to “get some fresh air”. You can start by opening your windows and doors: it can help reduce the concentration of toxic chemicals and CO2 levels inside your home. Investing in windows like frameless sliding glass windows and doors, French doors and bi-fold concertina doors can help you regulate the amount of air circulating your home. Natural ventilation can also moderate the temperatures inside your home.
2. Keep Your Home Clean
She may have been labeled a clean-freak, but Monica Geller’s obsession with cleanliness probably saved the Friends’ lives.
Dust is a source of allergens and chemicals that can accumulate, and in the long run, result in chronic respiratory disorders like asthma, bronchitis and flu. Vacuum and mop your floors at least once a week. While vacuuming your home, use a HEPA filter that can help reduce the concentration of lead, fire-retardant chemicals, pollen, dander and dust mites.
Mopping with clean warm water can absorb any dust that’s left behind from the vacuuming: avoid using any cleaning solution. And finally, do everything you can to prevent dust from being tracked into your home: for instance, use large floor mats at every door entrance in your home. These mats will trap most of the dirt, and other pollutants.
3. Watch the Humidity
Dust and mold thrives on moisture. Molds produce allergens and mycotoxins that can cause adverse health issues ranging from mild allergies to chronic conditions like asthma, depending on the kind of mold. Ideally, your home should maintain humidity levels at 30-50% to keep allergens and mold under control.
Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture, and air-conditioners during summer months to reduce pollen and dust. Be sure to empty the drip-pans of your dehumidifier and air-conditioner regularly, to prevent the build-up of mold.
There are also a number of other ways in which you can control the humidity. For instance, while, or immediately after, taking a shower or a bath, keep your windows open. The same goes for when you’re cooking, or you could alternatively install an exhaust fan, to suck out the heat and the steam build-up in your kitchen.
4. Say No To Smoking
Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, and therefore the fact that smoking is hazardous to one’s health is not news, nor is the danger of second-hand smoking. In fact the effects of the latter are even more insidious, especially for children who are at risk for upper-tract respiratory infections, asthma, cancer and even, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Smokers themselves are at risk of cancer, breathing difficulties, heart problems and even, strokes. So, the best thing you can do to improve the quality of air inside your home is to quit smoking; however, if you have to light up, step outside your home to do so. Make sure you tell any visitors to your home do the same, as well.
5. Cut Down The Use of Synthetic Fragrances
Yes. It’s nice when your home smells fresh and fragrant: but artificial fragrances used in air-fresheners, laundry solutions, fabric softeners and even, perfumes are sources of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These compounds have been designated as toxic and hazardous by US Federal Laws. In general, since most of these products are petroleum-based, they aren’t often tested for their effects when they’re inhaled. So limiting your use of these products can go a long way in improving your indoor air quality.
Try finding natural and scent-free alternatives for laundry detergents and use mild cleaning solutions that don’t carry any artificial smell. Toss all your aerosol sprays out, such as: deodorants, hairspray, air-fresheners and furniture polish. Maximize the use of natural fragrances inside your house by bringing nature inside: indoor plants act as natural air purifiers. Plants like aloe vera, chrysanthemums or ferns have been proved to have specific air pollutant blocking properties.
Maintaining a clean indoor air quality isn’t just about doing your bit for the planet, but it’s also about doing your bit for your own self: improving your quality of life and maintaining a healthy existence.