There has been a resurgence in attention to air quality in recent times, though the focus is disproportionately directed at the air outside while the indoor air quality gets neglected. But, if the statistics are to be believed, we spend over 90 percent of our time in closed spaces. Doesn’t it make sense then, to pay as much attention to air quality in homes and workplaces as we do for the outside?
Considering also that, indoor air is in fact, the same as the air outside – with all its pollutants, micro-particles and what not – trapped inside the building where additional air pollutants mix up with the air and are recycled within the house. You’d see just how critical it is to push indoor air quality to the fore of the discussion.
The issue is, the impact of poor indoor air quality can take several years to manifest, except, in situations where there’s an asthmatic patient. They’d quickly get irritated by the micro-particulates and pollutants in the air triggering coughing, sore throat and difficulty in breathing.
The question becomes, are there cost-effective methods to improve the air quality at home and office without spending a fortune doing so? Sure there are, and that’s what this article seeks to explore – 10 useful hacks you can start doing right now to enhance your home’s air quality.
But, before sharing these hacks, let us take a look at the typical sources of indoor air pollution.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Based on the information shared on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, here are some air pollutants in the home:
Radon is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless radioactive gas that might get introduced into your house through the ground on which it is built, well water, and the type of building materials used in the construction.
Radon is quite difficult to detect due to its nature, which means one could be inhaling it without knowing and there are no immediate signs to indicate its presence until it’s quite late. Throw in the fact that it has been linked to lung cancer and you’ve got on your hands a hazardous situation.
Action tip: Get the testing kit, thankfully – they’re relatively inexpensive – and run a test in your home. If the radon level is higher than 4 pci/L, then it’s time to bring in a professional to help you.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke:
The lingering tobacco smoke long after the cigarette, cigar, or pipe goes out is known as environmental tobacco smoke. Inhaling this smoke poses the same risk to you just as smoking does to the smoker.
The health hazards of tobacco smoking are well documented, ailments ranging from lung cancer, heart diseases, eyes, noses, throat and lung irritations are associated with this lifestyle.
Action tip: Environmental tobacco smoke is one of the air pollutants that are easily detected. A simple way of avoiding this pollutant is to make your home smoke free.
Household cleaning products:
These cleaning products also called volatile organic compounds are used in several household maintenance products such as cleaning supplies, and they are also found in paints, permanent markers, and photocopiers.
Some of their effects may include dizziness and feeling of nausea, throat, eyes, and nose irritations. For extended exposure could negatively impact the central nervous system.
These chemicals are indeed toxic to the body, and in the bid to kill off several of the household pests, we inadvertently release pollutants into our homes. To avoid the severe health implications of inhaling pesticides, one is advised to ensure there’s no one at one when using it and immediately you get back inside to throw open the windows and let in fresh air.
The inhalation of pesticides has been linked with an increased risk of cancer in addition to the irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
Other indoor air contaminants include asbestos, chemicals like formaldehyde, respirable particles – these are tiny particles that are easily inhaled without us noticing, smokes and CO from stoves, fireplace, etc. and lead in coatings and paints.
Signs of Air Pollution in the house
Here are tell-tale signs that indicate the presence of air pollutants in the home and some of them include:
- Coughing, frequent sneezing when at home: this is a sure proof sign of a poor indoor air quality. It could be an indication of the presence of irritants such as pollens, particles, and micro-organisms like fungi in the air.
- Waking up with a congested nose or a slight headache
- A runny nose, watery eyes and sore throats are all symptoms of a poor air quality.
- Severe and long-term effects such as asthma and bronchitis are other signs of prolonged exposure to air contaminants.
- hacks to maintaining a high-quality indoor air
- Throw open the windows: Very simple, easy to follow trick. It does not cost a dime to open your windows especially during the warm seasons and let in fresh air.
What this action does is to create a bit of draft in the house, forcing stale damp air out. Waste such as carbon dioxide from biological activities are let out; the improved ventilation also helps to combat dampness thereby preventing the growth of micro-organisms like molds and fungi in the house.
- Place Air Purifying plants in your house: Plants not only serve for aesthetic purposes, but they also act as air purifiers in the home. According to research conducted by NASA in 80’s, they discovered that some plants thrive in closed spaces while also removing toxic elements such as Volatile Organic Compounds from the air.
Placing some of these plants in your home will go a long way in enhancing the air quality. Some of the crops include
o Aloe Vera: This versatile plant is my favorite. Not only does it add a little touch of green to the interiors of my home, but it’s also easy to grow, and its succulent parts are used to treat some skin maladies.
Aloe Vera is useful for removing Benzene and Formaldehyde from the air.
o Spider plant: used this plant to remove carbon monoxide, xylene, formaldehyde and benzene from your home. Installing it closer to the fireplace or likely sources of carbon monoxide in the house is a good idea.
If you’re worried about caring for the plant, you shouldn’t be since it requires little care to grow.
o Chinese Evergreens: this variegated plant removes some air pollutants from the air. And it needs low maintenance to thrive.
o Snake plant: Effective in taking out formaldehyde from the air, and it’s one of the great plants you can place in the bathroom.
Other plants you can use to enhance your indoor air quality include the English Ivy, Golden Pothos also called Devil’s ivy, Peace lily, Reed palm or Bamboo palm, heartleaf philodendron, Selleoum Philodendron, Red-edged dracaena, Cornstalk dracaena, and Warneck dracaena.
It is essential to keep in mind that plants do not remove dust and smoke from the air hence a combination with other air purifying products or methods is recommended.
- Switch to non-toxic cleaning products: Household cleaning products are easily some of the common contaminants in the house. Organic products such as baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are recommended as a replacement for those commercial air fresheners, scents, and aerosols.
Switching to VOC-free cleaners significantly cuts down on the core indoor air pollutants hence helping you improve your home air quality.
- Maintain a moderate humidity level in the house: Molds, fungi, and bacteria thrive in high humidity environment. So to ensure they don’t find your home conducive, maintain the humidity level between 30 percent – 50 percent.
Also, you can use an appropriate dehumidifier to keep the indoor moisture level moderate.
- Vacuum your home regularly: Regular vacuuming removes dust and dirt lodged in the carpets, furniture, and on any other surface in the house. This is one of the easiest means of controlling the amount of dust and particles in the air.
- Forbid the use of tobacco inside the house: Tobacco use accounts for about 30 percent of indoor air pollution, to eliminate this harmful pollutant simply ban smoking inside the house.
- Avoid storing adhesives, paints and other chemicals in your house: these chemicals have strong pervasive odor that degrades the quality of air in your home. If you must store them, I recommend stowing them away in outside stores and they should be tightly covered.
- Avoid using nail polish inside the house: Most manicure and pedicure products have a persisting odor that lingers even when after several hours of using them.
- Ensure your furnace filters are in perfect working condition: if you have a fireplace or furnace in your home, it is essential to run a check on your furnace filter to ensure it is not leaking out harmful gas like carbon monoxide without you knowing.
- Clean and leave your shoes at the front door: Now, this hack is indeed a common sense approach to keeping air pollutants out of your home. Most times, we carry pollens, animal dander, feces, and other allergens unknowingly into the house.
So, keep the shoes outside, and wear only the indoor shoes when inside the house.
Understand that the quality of your indoor air is your responsibility; there are severe health implications of extended exposure to poor air which could be permanent. Hence, I hope that this list of hacks will guide you to enhancing the air quality of your home.