How to improve your indoor air quality and why it matters

Winter and early spring are times when we want to huddle indoors away from the cold and windy weather outside. But human hibernation comes at a cost: when all our windows remain closed, air becomes stale and condensation from heating, cooking, washing and drying all mount up. This is the time of year when we burn scented candles and use our diffusers, so the air can be overlaid with perfumes. Levels of many pollutants inside may be 2-10 times higher than outdoor levels.

Adjusting to going outside after Covid

During the months and years of the Covid pandemic we have been forced to stay inside. Now we need to reconnect with the outside – whether in rain or shine! A good plan is to try to stay outside for around 45 minutes in the morning – this wakes up our sleepy bodies and gives us energy and optimism for the day. We need sunlight (however weak) to regulate our circadian clock for sleep, appetite and much more.

In our homes, there are many invisible pollutions that build up. These include gases such as carbon monoxide and very fine particles of dust and dirt. Ventilation is the easiest way to flush out allergens and other toxins quickly. Open doors and windows for a few minutes throughout the day to exchange the indoor air. This is even worth doing if you live near a road or external sources of pollution. Choose a time when traffic volumes are at their lowest or leave windows open at night. You can check your local outdoor air pollution levels before you open up here (https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/).

What are the effects of indoor air pollution?

Allergy UK tells us that around 2 million healthy life years are lost every year due to exposure to poor indoor air quality and a minimum of 99,000 deaths per year may be attributed to indoor air pollution in the EU.

Children are particularly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe higher air volumes per body weight. Research has shown that exposure to air pollutants increases the risk of severe respiratory illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis and asthma in young children and may cause headaches, drowsiness, and concentration loss, that affects school performance. Homes were responsible for 88% of the pollutants analysed. The highest exposure and inhalation of air pollution occurred in bedrooms caused by poor ventilation, high occupancy time, and a concentration of pollutant-emitting household products.

For a person who suffers from allergies, the main symptoms of poor indoor air quality are caused by poor ventilation and high humidity. Allergens such as mould spores, house dust mites and pet dander are commonplace indoors, and can cause severe symptoms including asthma, eczema, or year-round hay fever symptoms.

Chemicals can evaporate from laundry, cleaning and personal care products to pollute our indoor atmosphere. This is a serious problem because the pollution can be cumulative. These chemicals can cause reactions even in those without allergies often as a fragrance sensitivity.

Types of pollution in the home

VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) make up the main component of chemical pollution indoors. VOC’s can be commonly found in furniture, paint, DIY materials, cleaning and personal care products. Here are just a few everyday events that can cause VOC-based pollution in the home:

  • Cooking food at a high temperature, resulting in smoke.
  • The installation of new carpets.
  • Cleaning the kitchen and oven with specialised cleaners.
  • Using air fresheners and deodorisers.
  • Lighting a fire in an open fireplace.
  • Using charcoal for heat or cooking.
  • Damp, mould or mildew.
  • Painting a room with fresh household paint.

Easy ways to improve the air quality in your home

  • Keep rooms well aired.
  • Prevent condensation build up. Consider using a dehumidifier to keep humidity less than 50%.
  • Keep your home warm in winter (19-21 degrees C).
  • Always open windows or use an extractor when cooking or showering.
  • Use allergy friendly and organic household and personal care products.
  • Pay special attention to children’s rooms and make sure these are ventilated and cleaned often with organic products.
  • Switch to non-aerosol products.
  • Consider removing carpets and replacing with natural hard floorings.
  • Fix any leaks or water damage.
  • Keep your home smoke free.
  • Don’t burn incense sticks – they produce over 100 times the number of fine particles as candles.
  • Avoid candles with artificial fragrances.
  • Avoid room fresheners – use diffusers with organic essential oils instead.
  • Wash bedlinen at 60 degrees C or above to kill dust mites.
  • Don’t dry wet clothes over radiators, invest in an electric drying rack.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Use a steam cleaner for curtains and upholstery.
  • Wash children’s soft toys regularly.
  • Consider investing in an air purifier for rooms that are used frequently.

Greenscents organic and allergy friendly household & laundry products can help you to improve the air quality of your home without compromising on fabulous fragrances.  Check out the full range here.

Further Reading