HOW TO IMPROVE INDOOR AIR QUALITY AND REDUCE AIR POLLUTION
It is obvious that all humans desire to breathe clean air. In a progressively urbanized world, pollution and air quality are essential and hotly debated issues. More often than not, we tend to assume that air pollution is something that we face while outdoors in the form of that yellow haze in the air, smog, or ozone depletion. We tend to concentrate more on the outside and ignore the problem inside. Yet, indoor air quality is critical as it concerns all of us.
We spend around 90% of our time indoors, without the knowledge that the air inside our offices, homes, and buildings could be more polluted compared to outside air. For most of us, health risks indoors might be greater than outside. This is due to exposure to allergens, chemicals, particles, and pollutants. The elderly and children are more susceptible to indoor air pollution as they are the most exposed. However, since we all spend a lot of time indoors and that present-day buildings are constructed in such a way that they lock contaminants and pollutants inside, then we are all at risk.
Luckily, by comprehending indoor air quality and the issues surrounding it, there are many actions you can take to improve indoor air quality and reduce air pollution altogether. At Simon Air Quality, we have compiled our top tips on how you can maintain proper indoor air quality at your office, home, and other inside spaces. You will learn the best strategies you can use to reduce indoor air pollution by improving ventilation, eliminating contaminant sources, and identifying filtration opportunities.
How Does Indoor Air Become Polluted?
According to the World Health Organization, over two million persons die each year from small particles in the air. We understand that clean indoor air boosts productivity in the workplace, and improves our overall well-being, but how does indoor air around us become polluted in the first place? According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, there are three categories of indoor air pollutants. They include:
These are invisible particles or gases like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. They are mostly connected to the techniques we use to heat our indoor spaces. These pollutants are caused by space heaters, burning materials, gas stoves, wood stoves, heaters, and all sorts of fireplaces and dryers. Ventilation is a large determinant of combustion pollution levels.
Asthma and Allergy Triggers
Exposure to substances like dust, smoke, mold, and pollen can trigger allergies and asthma. Mold is common in improperly ventilated areas, basements, and bathrooms. Other substances like mites, dandruff, and animal hair can be located on the floor, in textiles, and on furniture.
Volatile Organic Compounds
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) comprise different organic chemicals. They emanate from liquids or solids and are released as gases. Numerous household products like paints, disinfectants, cleaning supplies, varnishes, glues and adhesives, and hygiene products release VOCs. Common VOCs include: methylene chloride, ethylene glycol, benzene, and acetone.
Measures to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Now that you are aware about indoor air quality in terms of what it entails, and how indoor air quality is polluted, we can now look at the strategies you can incorporate to improve indoor air quality and reduce air pollution altogether.
Cleaning your indoor areas on a regular basis is an obvious and one of the most effective actions you can take to improve indoor air quality. Busting dust is vital as allergens and chemicals can buildup in household dust. Here are some techniques you can use to effectively clean your indoors.
Allergens and chemicals have the potential of piling up in your household for a long period of time. By using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, you can minimize these accumulations in your home. You can also get rid of other substances such as allergens like dust mites, pollen, and pet dander. You can also eliminate toxins such as brominated fire-retardant chemicals (PBDEs). Using a vacuum with rotating brushes, a HEPA filter, and a strong suction makes sure that dirt and dust does not get blown back out through the exhaust. In highly active areas, vacuuming the same spot should be done severally. Carpet edges, upholstered furniture, and walls should not be forgotten. For good results, consider vacuuming your indoors more than twice a week.
Mopping is able to pick up the small dust particles that a vacuum cleaner is not able to eliminate. You could skip cleaners and soaps and use plain water to capture allergens and any lingering dust. New microfiber dust cloths and mops are able to capture more dirt and dust compared to traditional fibers. They also do not need cleaning solutions.
Keep Dirt Out
Place doormats at all entrances to your space or home. Mats help to reduce the amount of pollutants, chemicals, and dust that people track in. If possible, individuals should take their shoes off and leave them in a specific area.
Machine washable beddings aid to prevent dust mites and allergens. Consider washing sheets, comforters, and pillows on a regular basis to minimize exposure.
Make Your Home a No-Smoking Zone
“Secondhand cigarette smoke is probably the single most essential element of indoor air pollution,” says Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York City. Studies show that cigarette smoke has over 4,000 chemicals. According to research, secondhand smoke is likely to rise a child’s risk of suffering from medical conditions like cancer, asthma, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For the smoker addiction could lead to breathing problems, stroke, cancer, and heart problems.
If you would like to stop smoking around your home, then nicotine-replacement therapy, support groups, and other medications might help. Stopping this addiction can be of great benefit to the whole family. However, if this cannot be stopped, then you should smoke outside. Through this, indoor air at your home will not be polluted. This, in turn, means that your family will be safe from any air pollution.
Keep Healthy Humidity Levels
Mold and dust mites love moisture. Therefore, keeping humidity levels of say 25%-50% helps to keep them under control. Using an air conditioner and a humidifier during summer periods, helps to reduce the level of moisture in your indoors which helps to keep these allergens at bay. Additionally, using an air conditioner helps to minimize pollen count – a great advantage for allergy sufferers.
Extra Tips on how you can Dehumidify Your Home
- Don’t overwater houseplants.
- Use an exhaust fan or open a window when washing, bathing, cooking, or cleaning.
- Make sure your plumbing system is not leaking. This helps reduce mold build-up.
- Frequently empty drip pans in your air conditioner or dehumidifier.
- Where applicable, vent appliances like clothes dryer to the outside.
- Immediately repair water or flood damage and dry furnishing and materials within 48 hours.
Make Sure Your Indoors Smell Good Naturally
You should make sure that your indoor space smells good naturally. The use of synthetic fragrances might give your kitchen or living room a great smell, however, these products emit several distinct chemicals into the environment. The sad thing is that, you won’t find the names of these chemicals on the product labels. Traditional fabric softeners, laundry detergents, air fresheners, and dry sheets may emit such gases.
In one research conducted, an air freshener was found to release 20 distinct Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) including seven of them rated as hazardous and toxic according to the U.S federal laws. These chemicals had not been included in the product’s label. Looking at this, we ought to be very careful with the fragrance products that we purchase.
Petroleum products are the most common origin of most fragrances. Most of them have not been scientifically tested and their effects on human health when inhaled remain unknown.
To avoid any harm, what can you do?
- Use mild cleaners that do not contain artificial fragrances.
- Look for naturally-scented or fragrance-free laundry products.
- Stop using aerosol sprays – carpet cleaners, air fresheners, deodorant, furniture polish, and deodorants.
- Keep your rooms well ventilated with an air conditioner.
- Use baking soda and sliced lemon to achieve a clean smell in the kitchen.
- Open windows to let in fresh air.
- Use indoor plants like aloe vera, spider plant, or fern. According to NASA, such indoor plants act as living air purifiers. Their roots and foliage help to absorb chemical pollutants. A point to note is that if you have pets or kids, make sure that your indoor plants are not poisonous when consumed.
Use Cleaner Fuels
For heating appliances and stoves, a significant reduction in air pollution can be done by switching from traditional and solid fuels like biomass and coal to cleaner energy like biogas, liquid petroleum gas, solar power, produce gas, or electricity. Make use of an electric kettle instead of a stove for coffee, tea, or to heat water. Make sure that your types of fuels are as efficient as possible. Furthermore, you should do proper maintenance and installation of devices around your home so as to improve indoor air quality through minimal emissions and better combustion.
Get Your Indoors Tested for Radon
Whether you live in an old or new home, you might have a radon issue. This odorless, and colorless gas remarkably increases the risk of lung cancer. In fact, among all the causes of lung cancer in the US, radon is rated as number two. If your home has high radon levels and you smoke, your risk of lung cancer is significantly increased.
Radon is a radioactive gas that originates from decay of uranium located in nearly all soils. The gas moves up through the soil and gets to your home through holes and cracks in the foundation. Any home has the potential of developing a radon problem. Granite countertops are also connected to radon. However, although this countertops emit some radon, research is yet to find out whether the emission levels can cause cancer.
Testing for radon is inexpensive, easy, and consumes very little time. You can get your indoors tested for radon here. If a radon problem is discovered, there are several methods that can be used to minimize the levels of the gas.
Another way to help improve indoor air quality and reduce air pollution is by doing ventilation improvements around your home. Open windows or doors, and run fans and air conditioners with the vent open so as to get more clean air inside your home. Exhaust fans help to remove contaminants from rooms. Ventilation is essential for all activities pertaining to pollutants like paint stripping, welding, sanding, painting, or cooking.
Other Measures you Can Take Include:
- Maintain mechanical filters.
- Open windows and doors when humidity and temperature allow.
- Fireplaces, fuel burning furnaces, heaters, exhaust fans, range tops, and other appliances ought to be vented to the outside. This should be well away from heating ventilation, windows, and air conditioning (HVAC) intakes.
What to Do if Indoor Air Quality Does Not Improve
If you live in a rented space and have incorporate the above mentioned techniques and still the quality of your indoor air does not improve, then there are a few things that you can do.
- Complain the issue to the management or building owner.
- Check with your territorial or provincial government for information and data regarding the owner’s duties, and your rights as a tenant according to Canadian law.
- Check with the municipalities as they might have laws concerning standards for rental property.
Make an Appointment with us
If all the techniques we have mentioned above do not work for you, or you lack the time and knack to perform them, then we are here to help. At Simon Air Quality, we possess the needed expertise and experience to offer you incredible indoor air-quality management services. We highly believe that breathing clean and fresh air is critical for ensuring a healthy home. We hence offer you indoor air quality solutions that you will appreciate. Contact us today to benefit from cleaner indoor air and reduced air pollution.