We tend to associate air pollution with coal power stations, traffic-ridden cities, airplanes, ozone, smog, and other outdoor pollutants. Many people can be forgiven for not knowing how dangerous poor indoor air quality can be. In fact, the stale air inside some homes may be more lethal than the air outside, with a toxic combination of allergy-inducing mold spores, pet fur, dust mites, and respiratory triggers like lead, radon, fire-retardants, and volatile toxins from fragrances.
What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Indoor air quality is a measure of how the air inside and around a home relates to its occupants’ health and comfort. As expected, a home’s indoor air quality deteriorates the closer it is to a big city (due to outdoor pollutants filtering into the house) and during winter months when there is limited airflow from the outside.
What Is Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Poor indoor air quality defines unsafe air inside and around a building that could expose the home’s occupants to adverse health effects from inhaling the pollutants in the air. Although the average American spends 87% of their time indoors, low indoor air quality is highly disregarded as a major cause for respiratory health concerns.
Unlike their outdoor counterparts, indoor air pollutants are typically odorless and invisible, adding to their lethality. Some common causes of indoor air pollution include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Chemical pollutants from commercially manufactured items
- Mold and mildew
- Gas leaks
- Carbon monoxide
How Can You Improve Indoor Air Quality?
1. Practice Proper Ventilation
As simplistic as it may sound, opening your windows and keeping air vents unblocked is perhaps the easiest and most affordable way of improving your home’s indoor air quality. Perform a quick scan of your living space and remove any items, e.g., furniture that may be preventing optimal air circulation.
2. Clean And Change the HVAC Filters
Air-conditioning systems not only regulate your home’s temperature throughout the year but also filter out some air pollutants. Electrostatic filters are excellent at trapping airborne irritants, including dust that may have otherwise circulated through your home. However, after years of neglect, air filters eventually reach their limit and stop trapping air pollutants.
Regularly cleaning and replacing the HVAC filters can improve your home’s air quality, not to mention avoiding costly AC repairs. If changing the HVAC filters is too challenging for you, consider subscribing to an air conditioning service plan that offers regular filter changes.
3. Enforce Strict Bans on Indoor Smoking
Did you know that toxic tobacco particles can remain in the air for up to five hours within an enclosed space? Secondhand cigarette smoke carries at least 4000 chemicals, and recent research has proven that it increases the risk of developing cancer, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), asthma, and other respiratory infections.
Besides banning indoor smoking, avoid burning anything that emits carbon monoxide, especially for recreational purposes. Seemingly innocuous mood setters like candles and incense sticks emit carbon monoxide and fine particles that, needless to say, affect air purity. If you must use candles, opt for natural wax, e.g., beeswax, instead of paraffin wax that typically contains petroleum waste.
4. Keep Humidity to a Minimum
Since mold and dust mites thrive in heat and moisture, maintaining a 30% – 50% humidity level should keep most allergens at bay. While we do recommend investing in a dehumidifier, here are other relatively low-cost ways of reducing indoor moisture:
- Open the windows or turn on the exhaust fan when taking hot showers, cooking, or using the dishwasher.
- Grow plants that absorb humidity, such as Boston ferns.
- Fix any leakages.
Indoor air quality has become a topmost priority over the decades, given the vast amounts of time we spend within the confines of our homes. Maintaining proper indoor air quality is, now more than ever, a necessity rather than an option.