Air pollution can be damaging to our health; car exhaust, diesel engines, industrial waste and agriculture all release toxic particles that we ingest that then affect our health. However indoor air pollution can be equally damaging.
Stale indoor air and heating systems can increase the amount of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander, and mould spores circulating through your house. In late winter and early spring, it may still be too chilly to throw open the windows to pull out the musty air, so while you await the warmer weather it's important to be aware of some of the allergy and respiratory triggers that may be lurking in your surroundings.
Though concerns about air quality outdoors have been commonplace since the industrial revolution and its accompanying smog and industrial waste, indoor air quality - or lack of it - also poses a serious threat. A study by Johns Hopkins University has found that pollution in indoor areas is, in fact, twice as bad as pollution outside and is a cause of asthma in children, among many other symptoms that can harm adults, too. A serious issue lies in the fact that there are no regulations for indoor air pollution in the home.
You probably know that it’s harmful to breathe in polluted air when you’re outside. The same is true when you’re indoors. We spend about 90% of our time indoors – at home, at work, at school, or when we go to shops or restaurants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to lung diseases like asthma, COPD and lung cancer.
Everyone is at risk from indoor air pollution. If you’ve got COPD, asthma, bronchiectasis or any other lung condition, you’re much more likely to be affected by poor air quality. If you have a lung condition you may also spend more time indoors. This means you may have more contact with things that affect the air you breathe. These could include cigarette smoke, cleaning materials or mould.
Children are particularly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality as their lungs are still developing. Their airways are smaller, so inflammation caused by pollution can cause them to narrow more easily than in older people. Pollution can also interact with allergens to cause asthma in children.
A typical home has lots of different sources of pollution: heating, cooking, cleaning, smoking, perfumes and furnishings. Even the simple act of moving about stirs up particles. Demands to improve the energy efficiency of buildings comes with the concern that more airtight homes could have an adverse effect on indoor air quality.
And if you think spraying scented air freshener will clean your air, think again. That scent is a form of indoor air pollution, and most air fresheners just release more potentially harmful chemicals into your home.
The air inside your home may already contain all sorts of unwanted stuff such as particulate (microscopic bits of solid or liquid matter), carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, formaldehyde, radon, and volatile chemicals from fragrances used in conventional cleaners.
Everything from heating to aerosols has a damaging effect on the indoor environment, as well as the build-up of damp or mould, second-hand smoke, paint and cosmetics. Without taking necessary precautions against these issues, inhabitants of a given area may suffer from allergic reactions, general fatigue, liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, as well as nausea. As such, it is essential that houses are equipped with the means to avoid air pollution and that people are educated as to how they avoid such problems.
These issues can also have a very negative impact on your home itself. Smoke can stain walls while embedding soft furnishings and clothing with odour, while damp can - if left to its own devices - rot and damage wood and plaster. Aerosols meanwhile are capable of leaving spores in their wake, while the pressure of the sprays themselves can discolour and burn fabrics.
Though it may seem a foregone conclusion that your home may be affected by air pollution from the many household items that are deemed essential to day to day life, there are actually many different things that you can do, and products that you can easily buy, to circumvent health issues and keep your home safe.
You may or may not be aware but Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are airborne pollutants found lurking in the air inside our homes. As the word ‘Volatile’ indicates, these airborne pollutants do not contribute to the health of the household, in fact they can play havoc with your health.
Consumer Products Which Can Contain VOCs:
It is hard to believe that our homes suffer from indoor pollutants. The Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) stated that there could be up to 900 chemicals lurking inside the air in our homes. In fact, according to the Environment Protection Agency, the air inside our homes could actually be up to 70% more polluted than the air outside!
When you enter your home, make sure you remove your shoes to avoid bringing in chemicals, pollen, dirt and dust indoors. If you have a porch it is a good idea to leave your outdoor footwear here or just inside the front door if you don't have a porch.
Although fewer people are taking up smoking, it remains a primary cause of dangerous pollutants being breathed in the home. If you smoke, try to ensure that you do so outside, even if you don't have children. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing compounds which build up inside your home when you smoke. This is not only damaging the property, it is damaging your own health and affecting those around you.
Aerosols are another dangerous everyday item that, though it may seem impractical, are important to avoid or cut out entirely. At the very least, try to make sure you use aerosols by an open window or open the window for at least an hour after use. Inhaling the harmful chemicals from a deodorant aerosol can cause skin reactions, aggravate allergies and trigger heart problems which can be fatal.
Every once in a while, a professional carpet cleaner may be hired to deep clean your carpeted areas. Pollutants and toxins live and rest in the fibres of a carpet, long after they may have been introduced. Although you may be keeping your home well ventilated and thoroughly clean elsewhere, carpets are a major source of lingering, harmful spores that are incredibly detrimental to health. The same may be said for your furniture - cleaning sofas, chairs of any other features of a home, especially if they are made from fabrics, is essential to the cleanliness of its environment and air.
With the right products, you can monitor the humidity of a given area and ensure that no mould grows there. Ideally, a humidity of 30 to 50% will help to prevent the build-up of mould, which grows readily in areas in which that is exceeded.
An easy, quick and free way to improve the air quality of a home and although it may sound simple, it is very effective. Simply keep windows open wherever and whenever possible, ensuring that there is a healthy circulation of air at all times.
If you have young children or suffer from allergies, you might want to invest in an air purifier. These small, electrical devices plug into the wall socket and clean the air in the surrounding area. If you live next to a busy main road they can help remove the particulate matter from inside your home or pollen that can sometimes be brought in from outdoors when opening and closing external doors and windows.
Another easy, aesthetically pleasing and quick way to ensure air quality is through the purchase of house plants. They work to produce cleaner, fresher air for your home, with very little in the way of upkeep (aside from watering).
Both for ensuring that mould is removed and avoided and for removing invisible, harmful remnants that may have lingered there from earlier, a quick clean of the walls - being careful not to damage the paintwork - can be very useful and effective.
Material brought in from the outside can also be harmful to your home. Streets are often unclean and oil and filth from them can enter the home and harm its environment. Ensure that shoes are clean or are taken off entirely before they enter your home.
Though leaks are likely to be fixed as a matter of course, you may have areas that are not as often inhabited - utility rooms, cellars etc - which may have slight leaking. The water that can build from a leak may quickly create mould and damp, and the liquid itself is likely to be very unclean.
Pesticides harm the environment and, though invisible, they also have a negative effect on air quality when in the home. Fruits and vegetables, some of which may be left in bowls or not refrigerated, may be a subtle, unknown source of air pollutants: organic produce is cleaner and safer in this respect.
Though houses are required by law to have smoke detectors, their importance in air quality maintenance is underestimated. Ensure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working - they will detect smoke and harmful gases, as well as heat and fire.
Like carpets and upholstery, bedding holds on to odours, spores and other items that might impact negatively on the quality of the air you breathe. Ensure that bedding is regularly washed.
Cats and dogs may spend a lot of time outside and, though the former are more aware of cleanliness than the latter, they can both bring in outside materials that are harmful to breathe.
Another simple, effective method of improving air quality, the regular mopping of floors ensures that you are not breathing in harmful bacteria that may have built up over time.
Water filters can easily be installed to reduce chlorine in the water, and avoiding the gas that the chemical emits.
An odourless, colourless gas that nonetheless has a quite serious impact in some areas of the country, purchasing a radon detector is a quick, easy way of ensuring that your home is free of this gas. It particularly affects basements and other more humid areas.
Though this is rarely mentioned, the 'fragrance' of various detergents and cleaning products is actually made up of a cocktail of quite nasty chemicals. Although you might think that you can prevent this problem by using non-scented cleaning products they actually still contain the same chemicals. The fragrance of a cleaning product is usually added after it has been manufactured to make it more appealing and 'smell nice' when using it in the home. Try to source cleaning products which are environmentally-friendly and work in exactly the same way as cleaning chemicals but without causing damage to your health.
The same may be said for paint. There are many products that are on the market, but a bit of research is all it takes to find environmentally friendly, non-scented and pollutant free paints, for whenever you are doing DIY.
Ventilation will vary from building to building, and monitoring it is essential to keeping a good air flow in a room. Ensure that you are up to date with the plans and efficiency of your home and that all the ventilation points are well cleared.
By following these 21 simple steps, you can help to avoid poor quality air in the home. However, you may wish to go a step further in ensuring that you and your family are kept safe from pollutants in the air. We have a range of energy efficient, whole-house ventilation units that can make life a lot easier for you - allowing for very little in the way of upkeep or hassle. Our Mr Venty ECO2 Air Twin is particularly useful - once it is installed in the loft and the ducting is all connected it will keep your property free from condensation.
Whatever precautions you already take, EnviroVent's ventilation products can either supplement or eliminate their necessity altogether through their innovative designs and eco-friendly properties. Contact us today on 0345 27 27 807 for more details on how to improve your home's air quality.
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