5 Hidden Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Something that has been puzzling us for some time now is that we seem to care so much about the quality of the water we drink, while having no clue about the quality of the air we breathe. Just to give you a few numbers, we inhale some 11,000 liters of air every day. That's close to 8 liters every minute, and more than 300 million liters over a lifetime.
Spending the vast majority of our time indoors, access to clean air becomes fundamental, and indoor air pollution can be up to 5 times higher than outdoors. In each of our homes and offices there are several sources of indoor air pollution that can potentially become a danger.
What are the main sources of Indoor Air Pollution and what can you do about it?
Common home cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals such as alcohol, chlorine, ammonia, and solvents that can negatively affect your health; from irritating your eyes and throat, to causing headaches. Some of these products contain chemicals that release dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) causing chronic respiratory problems and aggravate allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Products containing VOCs include most sprays, bleach, upholstery cleaners, furniture and floor polishes, and stove cleaners.
One of the best ways to reduce indoor air pollution is to limit the sources of VOCs. Some items can produce such high levels of VOCs that it is safer to replace them altogether.
Since the only way to detect potential sources of indoor air pollution is through certain tech devices, and not everyone has access to one at home, there are some other ways to minimize airborne exposure to VOC particles.
When dealing with weak VOCs, ventilation alone can significantly reduce VOC accumulation, especially if rooms have been recently painted or new carpet or flooring has been installed.
It’s also useful to keep both temperature and humidity low, as some chemicals like formaldehyde become more volatile when it’s warm or humid. When buying new items, be sure to choose products with low or no VOC content and wood items with natural finishes.
Chemical are common in a variety of household items including furniture. Yet, they are proven to be associated with numerous health and environmental concerns. Fire retardants are most commonly found in furniture that contains polyurethane foam, like sofas and chairs, futons, and carpets. They are also found in children’s car seats, changing table cushions, portable crib mattresses, sleeping mats, and nursing pillows. Such chemicals can “spill-out” from these products and contaminate household dust, turning it into a danger.
Fire retardants are nearly impossible to avoid completely. However, if you take these precautions, you can easily minimize your exposure:
Vacuum carpets with a vacuum containing a strong filter.
Inspect foam paddings for damage. Make sure cushion covers are intact, as exposed foam allows fire retardant chemicals to escape with more ease.
Do your research before buying baby products such as crib mattresses and car seats, and choose products that do not contain fire retardants.
Chose safe products making sure with the seller that they do not contain fire retardants.
A poorly ventilated kitchen can also cause a large amount of indoor air pollution in your home.
Gas stoves in particular, emit nitrogen dioxide which mixes with the air to create nitric acid and toxic organic nitrates. These can irritate the lungs and reduce resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. According to the EPA, frequent exposure to high levels of nitrates can cause acute respiratory illness in children.
Always make sure your kitchen is well ventilated during and after any type of cooking – not just when you’re burning something. Installing a high-quality fan or range hood can greatly improve air quality. If, as in some apartments, you don’t have a fan or range hood, be sure to cook with the windows open nearby.
When new paint is drying, indoor air pollution (VOC) levels can be 1000 times higher than normal. Paint is well-known to be a source of VOCs. Since VOC emissions can continue even 6 months after paint application, people are very likely to be exposed to vapors from freshly painted surfaces. Some of these indoor air pollutants (methylene chloride and benzene) are known carcinogens – meaning they have been scientifically linked with cancer.
Even if you haven’t painted in years and live in an older home, the walls may be coated with lead paint, which was banned in the late 1970s. Lead can be a potent neurotoxin even decades after a room has been painted, as the paint chips, flakes and peels off the surface.. Paint fumes can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, asthma exacerbation, fatigue, skin allergies, confusion and memory impairment.
When buying paint, choose brands that are VOC-free. These paints are just as good as regular interior and exterior paints, and as an added benefit, they also tend to dry much faster.
Most candles cause indoor air pollution in your home with harmful gases and sediments. Regardless of what the candle is made of, all candles release carbon particles as they burn, which can become airborne and cause respiratory problems. Kerosene candles – especially – are the worst. Other chemicals, are linked to the risk of lung cancer and are normally added to the wax as solidifying agents.
A healthy choice would be to buy candles made from beeswax or vegetable oils and with natural dyes and fragrances.
A conclusive note
All in all, we should realize that our homes contain multiple sources of indoor air pollution. By exposing ourselves to it for a long time, we can cause long-term damage to our body, which will limit us in our everyday life.
In addition to the tips we mentioned, air purifiers make a huge difference when it comes to air quality at home. With our KORU air purifier, you can take control over and greatly improve your Indoor Air Quality in a natural and sustainable way.