Your Home's Indoor Air Quality - Ways To Improve It For Better Health
TerraGreen|July 2021
The air in your home could be at times much dirtier than the air outside, and it can make you sick. Here’s what makes it so dirty and how to improve your indoor air quality, elaborates Lorena Romo. She presents it from the perspective of the environment in the USA and we in India could also learn from her experience.
Lorena Romo

Indoor air quality is one of those things that you probably don’t give a lot of thought to, but it can have far-reaching impacts on your—and your family’s and pets’—health. Since most people spend around 90 per cent of their time indoors, polluted air in the home can have serious risks to your health—especially for the very young, the elderly, immuno-compromised people, and your beloved pets.

Dirty indoor air can have immediate effects, such as nose, eyes, and throat irritation while using cleaning chemicals, or it can have ongoing effects, such as flare-ups or continually worsening symptoms of allergies, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) resulting from the run-of-themill allergens in your home’s air. The Environmental Protection Agency stresses that even if you don’t have symptoms related to poor air quality in your home, you should take steps to improve your air.

Improving your indoor air quality has an important impact on your health. It can help you reduce symptoms of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses, and it can help you sleep better. Clean indoor air means more energy and fewer headaches, and it can even improve your digestive health. Most experts recommend a three-pronged approach to improve your indoor air quality. The first prong is source control, or keeping pollutants out of your home, or maintaining low levels of them. The second prong is ventilation, which removes polluted air from home and sends in fresh outdoor air. The third prong is cleaning the air with portable machines or in-duct air cleaners.

Here is the ultimate guide to cleaning the air in your home, prong by prong.

Prong 1: Control Pollution at the Source

Two types of pollutants lurk in your air: gases and particles.

Gaseous pollutants (gases) result from combustion, and they’re present as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from adhesives, paints, cleaning products, pesticides, and even from upholstery, furniture, and building materials (Source: https://iaqscience.lbl.gov/). Particulate matter (particles) includes dust, pollen, smoke, animal dander, mold, combustion particles, viruses, and bacteria (Source: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-qualityiaq/indoor-particulate-matter).

The best way to improve the air quality in your home is to keep harmful gases and particles out in the first place but to do that effectively, you’d need to live in a bubble. So, the second-best way is to keep air pollutants under control, so they occur at low levels. These are the most common sources of indoor air pollution and what to do about them.

Household chemicals: Is it time to make the switch to natural?

The chemicals you use every day, or at least commonly, are some of the worst for your indoor air quality and your health. Swap out conventional cleaners and body care products for natural. Conventional cleaning products and body care products contain many harmful chemicals, including toxic substances and known carcinogens. Natural cleaners that are plant-based get your home just as clean as the nasty stuff but without polluting your air. Make the swap to natural products for at least the very worst offenders, including laundry detergents, disinfectants, and air cleaners (Source: https://porch.com/ advice/eco-friendly-cleaning). Plantbased, natural body care products are delightful and effective, and they’re free from harmful chemicals.

Avoid synthetic air fresheners: Synthetic air fresheners—including the spray, plug-in, or gel types—have numerous toxic chemicals in them that linger in your air. For ‘fresh,’ scented air that’s safe and natural, opt for an essential oil diffuser, a natural room spray made with essential oils, or just open the windows to air out the room.

Avoid (or safely use) pesticides: If you need to use pesticides to get rid of critters, such as roaches or mice, follow the directions very carefully. Better yet, find natural ways to do away with household pests, or call in the professionals who will use the pesticides in the safest possible ways.

Air out new furniture and textiles: Pretty much any new piece of furniture or rug you bring into your home will off-gas VOCs, such as formaldehyde, adhesive chemicals, and other toxic chemicals. Opt for natural fibres when you can, or let particularly stinky household goods sit outside for a few hours or days to clear the worst out before you bring them inside.

Biological contaminants: controlling them helps reduce allergies and illness

Your air is filled with biological contaminants, such as bacteria and viruses, mold and mildew, pet dander and saliva, insect parts and droppings, and pollen and other allergens. To keep these under control:

Dust and vacuum weekly: Removing dust, dander, insect parts, pollen, and mold spores is largely a matter of sucking them up in your vacuum cleaner (Check https://blog.hireahelper.com/). Dust and vacuum at least once a week—more, if you have a large household, lots of pets, or live in a dusty area. Consider a robot vacuum cleaner that can remove contaminants from your home every day.

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