We tend to think of air pollution as something that's only outside, like smog. But the truth is, the air inside homes, offices, and other buildings can be more polluted than the air outside. Additionally, those who tend to be exposed to indoor pollution for the most time also tend to be more susceptible to its effects. These groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
Where do domestic pollutants come from?
Furniture, cigarettes, household appliances, cookware, and even textiles can emit harmful gasses that pollute indoor air. Among the most widespread pollutants is formaldehyde, a cancer-causing compound that is used for processes like embalming but can also be found in formalin, a solution of formaldehyde in water. Formalin is an ingredient in many insulation sprays, wood glues, and flooring treatments. Other household cleaning products also contribute to interior pollution, with ammonia and acetaldehyde ranking among the worst offenders.
What can you do about indoor pollutants?
Ventilate your home
Opening windows to encourage ventilation and outdoor air circulation can help prevent the crystallization of pollutants and reduce stale air. Even when it’s chilly outside, you should open a window for at least five minutes a few times each day to help circulate fresh air and push out some of the indoor air pollutants. Most home heating and cooling systems, including forced-air heating systems, do not mechanically bring fresh air into the house.
Especially relevant during the recent pandemic, studies showed that encouraging ventilation helped reduce virus transmissions in buildings and enclosed spaces. When considering cooling options, the CDC recommends the use of ceiling fans and suggests that evaporative coolers are a safe alternative for providing “cross-draft airflow.” We recommend evaporative coolers like Honeywell Portable Air Coolers, to help renew stale air while also providing some moisture to help with dry air that can exasperate respiratory symptoms.
Keep it clean
A clean house might be a healthier house because good indoor hygiene can greatly cut down on dust and animal dander. Vacuuming the carpets and area rugs at least once a week can go a long way toward reducing dust and allergens. Opting for hard-surface flooring instead of wall-to-wall carpeting can also cut down on allergens in the home. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends washing linens in water that's at least 130° F. You should also consider using dust-mite-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs whenever possible.
Invest in a good quality air purifier
An air purifier or air cleaner is a device that removes contaminants from the air in a room. It can help create cleaner, more healthful indoor air for your home or office, which can help prevent health conditions related to air quality. When selecting an air purifier, first think about your indoor air quality needs. If you have allergy problems, or if your symptoms are triggered by odor and pollutants a unit that addresses your air quality needs all year round.
Keep a healthful level of humidity with a reliable dehumidifier
The EPA lists excess humidity as a major cause of indoor air pollution. Keeping humidity levels around 30-50% helps keep mold, mildew, and other allergens under control. Dust mites also thrive in more humid air, so keeping air dry can reduce growth on carpet and linens. A reliable dehumidifier will significantly reduce moisture in your home to a healthful level and is a necessary appliance if you live in more humid cities, helping to keep air pollution caused by bacteria and mold growth at bay. Try to find a long-lasting dehumidifier you can rely on every season because you might be running it year-round. Look out for brands like Honeywell Dehumidifiers that offer a lengthy 1+4year warranty so you can be protected if the unit malfunctions or wears over time.
Don’t overuse scented products and essential oils
There are many scented products, including essential oils, fragrance diffusers, and aromatherapy products, that are marketed to help improve health. Some go even further and claim antiviral properties, but with little scientific research on health benefits, it's important to take this information with a grain of salt. An excess of any scented product is usually not recommended, and as suggested by IndoorScience.com, many essential oils and fragrance diffusers add unhealthful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the air. Even if certain brands claim to be “natural,” it doesn't necessarily mean they're good for you. Just remember to weigh the benefits of those fragrances against the increased volume of VOCs that can contribute to air pollution in your room.