In recent years, we have become used to discussions about the quality of air in our villages, towns, and cities. This is a huge problem; our air quality is important for health and wellbeing, but for most of us, the quality of air inside our homes is worse! Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA have discovered that pollution in our homes can be 2-5 times worse than the air outdoors. This situation can be affected by a number of factors, but sources of pollution in common home items can exacerbate the situation. In this article, we will look at five common household items that may be lower the quality of your indoor air.
The Importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
When our IAQ is poor, it can affect our health in a very negative way, and the first people to notice the problem are those with allergies and pre-existing respiratory illnesses. Identifying, removing, or replacing items that lower the IAQ will help, and many people are surprised at home much better they feel later. But, this is only part of the problem. There are air filtration systems that you can install in your home to make the air fresh and clean. It’s also important to ventilate your home regularly to remove the stale air and bring some fresh oxygen into the home. This can be hard when it’s cold or hot outdoors, but if you open the windows for an hour or so during the best temperature for the season, you will notice a difference in the IAQ. The best time to open the windows in winter is when the weather is warmest in the afternoon. During the summer months, you may want to ventilate your home in the morning or evening when the heat of the day has passed.
- Store Bought Cleaning Products
Many store bought cleaning products are scented with exotic fragrances, such as; “Fresh Mountain”, “Tropical Beach” and more. This may seem innocuous, but these added scents typically release airborne particulates that are not good for your health. When it comes to cleaning your home, it’s a better idea to use kinder products that are designed to clean without releasing harmful particulates. There are many greener cleaning products on the market now, but they can be a little expensive. As a cheaper alternative, you can make your own cleaning products at home. There are many cleaning product recipes available online that use common store cupboard ingredients, such as filtered water, vinegar, and baking soda. All you need is a few spray bottles to distribute your cleaning solutions, and these are readily available at your local stores.
- Indoor Paint
When you choose a pain to use inside your home, it’s a good idea to look for pain with very low levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These chemical gases are toxic, they affect our breathing, and this can continue for years after the paint is applied. In recent years, this issue has become more widely recognized, and there are many low VOC options available. When you complete your painting, it’s advisable to dispose of the empty paint cans immediately. You may want to keep a small can around for touch up jobs, but you don’t want large volumes of paint in and around your home.
- Air Fresheners
An air freshener may seem like a great way to freshen up the air in your home, but it does the exact opposite. A single air freshener will contain many chemicals that could cause a wide variety of reactions, including allergic reactions, coughs, headaches, breathing issues, and asthma attacks. If you want to use an air freshener, look for greener products that use fewer and/or kinder chemicals that will not cause reactions. Another option is to investigate essential oils that can be warmed or sprayed to impart a nice fragrance for the entire home.
- Scented Candles
Scented candles certainly add a great deal of ambiance to any room, and on the surface, they seem like a good option when you want to mask a bad odor. But, most scented candles contain high concentrations of formaldehyde that can be harmful to health. This chemical is often found in the foam and coverings used on furniture too, and its toxic nature can lead to a number of nasty health problems. Before you opt for a scented candle, take a closer look at the ingredients to make sure there is no formaldehyde present. If you really want to use a scented candle, look for a kinder product made from soy or beeswax instead. These candles may cost a little more, but they are far better for your IAQ and overall health.
- Aerosol Sprays
The most common aerosol sprays that we may use in our homes are air fresheners and hairsprays. Both of these aerosol spray types can lower the IAQ and even affect the air quality outdoors when they eventually escape the home. Using toxic gases on your hair and to “freshen “the air is inadvisable, and there are many greener products on the market.
Other IAQ Considerations
Many of the polluting items that we’ve shown in this article are used to make the air smell cleaner and fresher. But, as we’ve seen, they contain toxic gases that actually have the opposite effect, and the underlying cause remains. When we resort to using air fresheners, we’re typically masking odors caused by a variety of sources, including cigarette smoke, food odors, grease, dirt, dust, and more. In many cases, a deep clean of the home, regular ventilation, and changing habits (only smoking outdoors) will be a better option. Another thing to consider is regular air filter changes for your HVAC system to remove basic particulates from the indoor air, such as hair, dust, and pet dander.
If you’re concerned about the IAQ in your home, contact your local certified HVAC specialist today. Ask about air filtration, ductwork cleaning, and regularly scheduled maintenance to improve the air quality and energy efficiency of your system.