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Top tips to improve indoor air quality and reduce pollution

Let’s start with the obvious: all humans need to breathe clean air. In an increasingly urbanized world, air quality and pollution are important and hotly disputed issues. However, we usually assume air pollution is something that we encounter outside in the form of smog, ozone depletion, or that yellow haze in the air. However, inside, the problem becomes invisible and is mostly ignored, yet indoor air quality concerns us all.

We spend roughly 90% of our time indoors, largely unaware that the air inside our homes, offices, schools and buildings can be even more polluted than outside air. For many of us, the health risks indoors might be greater than outside due to exposure to chemicals, pollutants, allergens and particles. Children, elderly people or the chronically ill are among the most susceptible to indoor pollution and are often the most exposed, but the fact that we spend so much time indoors and that modern homes are now constructed in a way which locks contaminants inside, we are all at risk.

The good news is that once you understand the issues of indoor air quality and pollution there are actions you can take for reduction and improvement. We have compiled our top tips for maintaining good indoor air quality in homes, offices and inside spaces. Learn effective strategies for reducing indoor air pollution by eliminating contaminant sources, improving ventilation and identifying opportunities for filtration.

How does indoor air get polluted?

According to estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), two million people die every year from small particulate matter in the air. We know that cleaner indoor air improves our well-being and boosts productivity in the workplace, but how does the air inside our homes and offices get polluted in the first place? The Environmental Protection Agency lists three categories of indoor pollutants which can all cause serious health issues, given sufficient exposure:  

Combustion Pollutants

These are invisible gases or particles such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide and are most commonly related to how we heat our indoor spaces. These pollutants originate from burning materials, space heaters, woodstoves and gas stoves, heaters and water heaters, all sorts of dryers, and fireplaces. Ventilation greatly affects the level of combustion pollution. Other factors are installation, maintenance, and fuel of appliances.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs for short) are a variety of organic chemicals. They are released as gases from solids or liquids. Many common household products release VOCs: cleaning supplies and disinfectants, paints, markers and varnishes, treated building materials and furnishings, pesticides, glues and adhesives, synthetic fragrances and air fresheners, dry-cleaning supplies and dry-cleaned textiles, carpets, sealing and solvents, cosmetics and hygiene products. Acetone, Benzene, Ethylene glycol, Formaldehyde, Methylene chloride, and Perchloroethylene are common VOCs.

Asthma and allergy triggers

People with allergies or respiratory conditions are more susceptible to these, but expose to the following can affect us all: mold, dust mites, pollen, smoke, and pet dandruff. Mold commonly affects bathrooms, basements and improperly ventilated bedrooms, whereas dust and mites as well as animal hair and dandruff can be found in textiles, on the floor and on the furniture.

The importance and benefits of clean indoor air

Microscopic fine particles in polluted air can travel deep into our lungs. They irritate tissue, cause inflammation, and worsen existing illness of the respiratory and circulatory system. Exposure to fine particles can impair breathing and increase the risk of asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and other serious illnesses. In turn, lower exposure to fine particles and improved air quality reduce these risks and can lengthen the average lifespan. People most vulnerable to the effects of fine particle pollution include children, the elderly, and people with asthma or heart conditions. The benefits will be greatest for them, but we can all profit of clean indoor air.

The bottom line is that exposure to polluted indoor air is related to a number of serious health effects: early death, increased hospital admissions, asthma attacks, low birth weight as well as respiratory and heart disease. Clean indoor air is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of particle-related morbidity and mortality for individuals as well as improvements in concentration, sleep, and quality of life.

Steps that you can take

Use our following tips and steps to greatly reduce pollutants in your indoor air and improve air quality in your home or workspace.

Measure pollutants and emissions

In order to learn how to intervene in your environment and which steps you will need to take, you can measure indoor air quality. Sensors and equipment can track VOC levels and assess the level of particle pollution. In addition, you can have professionals review the ventilation of your appliances and home or office. Test kits can inform you about certain allergens on furniture and floors.

Cleaning

A regular cleaning schedule is an obvious and effective action to improve air quality. Busting the dust is important as chemicals and allergens can accumulate in household dust.

  • Use a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner with disposable bags, strong suction and ideally rotating brushes. Apart from floors and carpets, vacuum walls, carpet edges, upholstered furniture and any spot where dust accumulates. Wash out your filter on a regular basis and vacuum two or more times a week.
  • Mopping floors will collecting additional dust that a vacuum cleaner can miss. Microfiber mops and dust cloths trap dust and dirt efficiently, so you can go easy on soap and cleaning supplies or skip them entirely.
  • Keep out dirt with doormats at entrances to your home or space. A mat helps reduce the amount of dust and outside pollutants people track in. Where appropriate, people should take off their shoes and leave them in a designated area.
  • Machine washable bedding help to fight allergens and dust mites. Wash pillows, sheets and comforters once a week to reduce exposure.

Chemicals

Many products emit harmful gases and VOCs. Check chemicals in new products you buy and what components have been used in the construction, decoration and furnishing of your space.

  • Opt for fragrance-free products or ones that are scented naturally. Synthetic fragrances emit chemicals and gases.
  • Avoid aerosol spray products.
  • Switch to mild cleaning products with no artificial fragrances.
  • Keep out commercial air fresheners. Use lemon juice, slices of lemon or lime or lavender to scent the air in a room. Baking soda in a small bowl can get rid off odors in the fridge or on the shoe shelf. Don’t use chemical moth balls.
  • Avoid plastic and petroleum based products. Products are generally only tested for skin irritation, hardly for inhalation. Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in fragrances and to soften plastics.
  • Let in fresh air on a regular basis. If necessary, use a filtration system to keep out allergens. Filters for air-conditioning should be maintained or cleaned often.

Fuels

For stoves or heating appliances, a huge reduction in indoor air pollution can be achieved by switching from solid fuels such as coal or biomass to cleaner and more efficient fuels or energy technologies such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), biogas, producer gas, electricity or solar power. Use an efficient electric kettle instead of a stove to heat water for tea or coffee. Regardless of the type of fuel, any stove or heating appliance should be as efficient as possible. Proper installation and maintenance of devices can help improve air quality through better combustion and lower emission levels.

Humidity

A healthy humidity level for indoor spaces is between 30% and 50%. Air that is too humid creates ideal conditions for dust mites and mold. Measure humidity levels and use a dehumidifier (and air conditioner) to control moisture in your rooms. Especially bathrooms, basements and bedrooms need proper ventilation.

  • Open a window or use an exhaust fan when cooking, washing, cleaning or bathing.
  • Where possible, vent exhaust from appliances (such as a clothes dryer) to the outside.
  • Avoid leaking plumbing so mold won’t build up.
  • Regularly empty drip pans in your dehumidifier or air conditioner. Clean humidifiers frequently.
  • Immediately repair flood or water damage and dry materials and furnishing within 48 hours. Mold growing on porous materials (drywall, ceiling tiles or wood) require that you discard and replace.

Smoke

Our homes, office and public spaces should all be no-smoking zones. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and secondhand smoke is linked to respiratory troubles, asthma, cancer, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking can cause cancer, breathing problems, heart attacks, and strokes. So, absolutely no smoking indoors - ask that smokers go outside.

Ventilation

Ventilation improvements are another approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants. Increase the amount of clean outdoor air inside by opening windows or doors and running fans or a window air conditioner with the vent control open. Exhaust fans can remove contaminants directly from rooms. Ventilation is very important for all activities that involve pollutants, such as painting, paint stripping, cooking, welding, soldering, or sanding.

  • Open doors and windows when temperature and humidity allow, but be mindful of seasonal allergens outside.
  • Make sure mechanical filters in place are well-maintained.
  • Fuel burning furnaces, fireplaces, heaters, range tops, exhaust fans and other appliances should be vented to the outside well away from windows and heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) intakes.

Plants

Bring nature inside - plants can make spaces healthier and more beautiful. To some extent, household plants can help eliminate toxic agents from indoor air and absorb VOCs with their leaves and roots. However, their removal rate is small, so don’t expect your potted plants to act as full-scale air filters for your home or office. English ivy and variegated snake plant have the ability to block some pollutants. They can filter out benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene. A Peace lily or a Florist’s chrysanthemum are also effective at filtering out ammonia. Keep in mind that these two plants have toxic leaves and are not suitable for households with children. Don’t water plants too much to avoid mold.

This concludes our essential reading on indoor air quality. Take action now to benefit from reduced air pollution and cleaner indoor air!

Weber Comforts

Comfort is probably the most important factor in our health and well-being. An interior which makes its occupants feel as comfortable as possible is a healthy, actively beneficial environment. 

Comfort is a state of well-being that derives from the material conditions of an environment: the way it is designed, built, decorated and furnished. The intelligent choice of materials and the way those materials are used is a major factor in determining the quality of an interior, and thus the level of comfort enjoyed by its inhabitants.

There are four key elements which contribute to general comfort. Together, they amount to goals building materials must achieve: