Indoor air pollution has become a major concern around the globe. In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), outdoor air pollution kills over 7 million people every year. Indoor air pollution also causes health problems such as asthma, respiratory infections, heart disease, cancer, and premature death.
The WHO estimates that nearly 3 billion people worldwide breathe polluted air indoors. This number is expected to increase to 4.3 billion by 2030. If you live in a developing country where air quality isn’t regulated or monitored, you might consider investing in an air purifier.
An air purifier removes contaminants from the air, improving indoor air quality. There are several types of air purifiers, each designed for specific purposes. Some remove allergens, odors, smoke, dust, bacteria, viruses, mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and other pollutants. Others cleanse the air of radon gas, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, tobacco smoke, and other chemicals.
Here are several ways to improve your indoor air quality
Common Air Pollutants.
Air pollution can come from many sources inside and outside your home. Contaminants like dust, smoke, pollen, bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and gases can enter your home through cracks around windows, doors, pipes, vents, chimneys, and appliances. You can also inhale harmful substances indoors through cigarette smoke, cooking fumes, cleaning products, paint, furniture, carpets, and dryer sheets.
Carbon Monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless gas, is produced during the incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, coal, gasoline, and oil. CO poisoning is often caused by faulty heating systems, furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters, water heaters, boilers, and hot tubs. If you smell, see, see, or hear it, call 911 immediately.
Mold and Mildew Mold spores float through the air and settle on surfaces throughout your home. A mold buildup can cause health problems, including allergies, asthma attacks, coughing, sinus infections, skin rashes, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness. Remove moldy items and use HEPA filters in air purifiers. Cleaning surfaces regularly helps control mold growth.
Asbestos Asbestos is a mineral fiber used in construction materials, insulation, and fireproofing products. Asbestos fibers release microscopic fragments that irritate the respiratory system when disturbed. Exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers. Keep children out of areas containing asbestos. Don’t disturb old building materials. Wear protective clothing while working in areas with asbestos.
Lead exposure causes brain damage, behavioral changes, learning disabilities, and kidney damage. It can affect the nervous system, immune system, reproductive organs, blood cells, bones, teeth, and kidneys. Children exposed to high levels of lead tend to develop smaller heads and brains. Over time, lead can leach out of paint, soil, and metal objects. Reduce lead exposure by keeping kids away from old paint and rusting metals. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling anything that could expose you to lead. Use a respirator when sandblasting or painting.
Smoke Smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic. Breathing secondhand smoke puts people at greater risk for heart disease, stroke, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and certain types of cancer. Avoid smoking in public places and cars, especially those occupied by young children. Ask smokers to refrain from smoking within six feet of others.
Here are seven things you can do right away to improve the air quality in your home:
Change your AC filter.
Air-conditioning systems are constantly working to keep your house comfortable. They cycle through all that air, filtering out dust and pollen along the way. However, as they do so, they filter out other things, like allergens and smoke particles. When your air filters become clogged, they no longer work properly, leading to problems such as poor air quality and increased energy usage.
If you don’t change your filters regularly, you could spend thousands of dollars fixing issues caused by dirty air filters. And even worse, you could end up with a broken unit that needs expensive repair work.
So, make sure you change your AC filters regularly. If you already have an annual maintenance contract for your air conditioner, ask about changing the filters during your next appointment. Otherwise, consider getting an air conditioning service plan, which usually includes a filter change. This way, you’ll know exactly what’s included in your monthly bill.
Check Your Air Ducts.
Air ducts are responsible for delivering heated and cooled air throughout your home. They can be found along walls, ceilings, and floors and are usually hidden behind wallpaper, insulation, and drywall. While you probably don’t think about them much, ducts play a critical role in maintaining a healthy indoor environment.
But ducts that aren’t installed properly or maintained can cause problems. Dust, dander, and even mildew can collect inside your ducts over time, reducing the overall airflow and increasing the risk of allergens spreading throughout your home. This could lead to itchy eyes, nosebleeds, coughing fits, and asthma attacks.
Hire a professional to check out your ducts to keep things running smoothly. A qualified technician will inspect your system, including vents, registers, fans, grilles, and filters. He’ll look for signs of leaks, blockages, and damage, and he’ll recommend repairs where necessary.
Use Cooking Vents.
Homeowners often overlook indoor air quality. But it’s important because many common household products — like cleaning supplies, paint, furniture polish, and food preservatives — are known to cause health problems.
Gas stoves release harmful contaminants such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxides. These gases can build up inside the home over time, causing headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. They can also lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Electric burners also emit dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). PAHs are carcinogenic substances that can damage DNA and cause cancer.
If you use gas or electricity for cooking, keep your kitchen vent hoods clean and clear of debris. You could also install a ventilation system in your kitchen, which circulates filtered outside air throughout the house.
Keep Your Rugs and Carpets Clean.
Rugs and carpets do much more than add style to your home. They are one of the best ways to improve the air quality inside your house. A good rug or carpet will trap dirt and dust mites in the pile of material, keeping it out of your home and preventing you from breathing in allergens. Plus, because most rugs and carpets are machine washable, you don’t even have to worry about cleaning them yourself.
Keep your rugs and carpet clean regularly, and they’ll continue to work hard for you, improving the quality of the air inside your home without you having to lift a finger.
Control Humidity in Your Home.
Humidity causes problems throughout the house, including the kitchen. It’s one of the most common reasons people call pest control companies. When humidity levels rise too high, pests become active and start breeding. This creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and spread.
When dealing with a problem like mold, you want to ensure there isn’t enough moisture in the air to cause damage. If you don’t keep humidity under control, the problem could worsen over time.
Buy Indoor Plants to Freshen the Air.
Plants are nature’s natural air filtration system. They help to cleanse the air we breathe, purifying it by absorbing pollutants such as pollen, dust mites, bacteria, mold spores, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and even radon gas. A study published in the Journal of Environmental Health found that people living in homes with plants had cleaner air than those without plants. There was a significant reduction in airborne allergens, including fungal spores, house dust mites, cat and dog dander, and cockroach excreta.
Buying a few indoor plants to enhance your home décor and improve indoor air quality can make you feel good about yourself. And it doesn’t hurt that plants add life to your space.