Environment

10 Ways to Limit Indoor Air Pollution (Infographic)

Indoor air pollution can be up to five times worse than the pollution outside.

Photo Credit: Maria Evseyeva/Shutterstock

The indoor air quality in our homes can be worse than we think—and it could be leading to a wide variety of health problems. Indoor air pollution (IAP) is a combination of outdoor polluted air that has seeped inside and internal pollutants. As our homes become more sealed, to keep noise out and heat in, they can also trap in more pollutants and allergens, too.

While outdoor air pollution is regularly discussed, indoor air pollution gets little attention, despite the fact that it can be up to five times worse than outside air pollution. 

Poor indoor air quality can lead to a number of health issues, while indoor air pollution was attributed to 99,000 deaths across Europe in 2012. The potential health impacts of IAP can include asthma, respiratory irritation, heart disease and cancer. Sick building syndrome can particularly afflict office workers, including symptoms such as headaches, tiredness and loss of concentration. 

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

In fact, even "normal" levels of indoor air pollution can have a significant negative effect on human cognition, according to a 2016 study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, SUNY-Upstate Medical School and Syracuse University.

Want to improve the quality of the air in your home? Here are 10 tips.

1. Need to smoke? Do it outside.

If you need to smoke, do it as far away from your home as possible, and keep windows closed to prevent the smoke from seeping back indoors.

2. Love your rugs? Think again.

Choose hard-surface floors for every room to help prevent allergenic or harmful particles from building up. Then use a mop to clean the floors every week.

3. Don’t be a doormat—beware your shoes.

Help prevent dirt and debris from entering your home by placing a doormat outside your front door, and introducing a shoes-off policy indoors.

4. Cook without leaving a trace.

Use an extractor fan whenever you cook to protect yourself from harmful levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused by gas cooking.

5. Banish condensation.

Prevent condensation from creating damp conditions and harmful mold by increasing ventilation in your home. Cover boiling pots and pans, open windows, keep the kitchen door closed when cooking and use a humidity monitor to ensure the humidity level in your home is kept between 30-50 percent.

6. Go all-natural.

Limit your exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be hazardous to human and animal health by using products based on natural ingredients. Purchase only low- or no-VOC paints and paint strippers, and use sustainable household cleaners made with natural ingredients like white vinegar.

7. Embrace the green stuff.

Houseplants can help improve indoor air quality naturally and effectively. NASA recommends the following plants for removing air pollutants: English ivy, philodendron, bamboo palm, peace lily and mother-in-law’s tongue. Research suggests that being around plants could boost our emotional well-being and even our brain power.

8. Purify the air.

Houseplants work particularly well when paired with an air purification system that uses activated carbon filters and a fan. An air purifier can help improve the air quality in your home by capturing even the smallest allergens and pollutants from the air, including pollen, bacteria, ultrafine particulates, VOCs and even odors. The machine then releases the purified clean air back into the home.

9. Eliminate odors, don’t just mask them.

Although you may associate that pine-fresh scent with a clean house, it's safer to find the cause of strange odors in your house and eliminate them completely, rather than masking them. Going back to tip #6 above, use bicarbonate soda as an all-natural odor eliminator instead. Click here for six natural ingredients for cleaning your home without making it toxic.

10. Ventilate.

Perhaps this is the most obvious tip, but keeping a fresh circulation of air in the house whenever possible can be very effective. Open a window: even five to 10 minutes of fresh air can make a difference to the quality of air within your home.

infographic courtesy Dyson.

RELATED STORIES

There Are Pollutants Lurking in Your House That Can Make You Seriously Miserable

Being Inside Is Making Us Stupid: How Indoor Air Pollution Impacts the Function of Our Brains

12 Therapeutic Houseplants That Can Boost Your Physical Health, Emotional Well-Being—and Even Your Brain Power

6 Natural Ingredients for Cleaning Your House Without Making It Toxic

Professor Ian Colbeck is an indoor air quality expert at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex.