Now that the weather is getting colder outside, individuals will be spending more time inside cars, buildings and homes. The importance of clean building indoor air quality is more crucial at this time as most individuals spend less time outside. Stated in WELL Building Standard, the World Health Organization estimates that air pollution globally contributes to close to seven million premature deaths in 2012 (Delos Living LLC, 2015). Poor indoor air quality can also lead to an increase in physical systems such as runny nose, eye irritations, headaches, an increase in asthma and possible cardiovascular complications.
Indoor Air Contaminants
There are four main categories where indoor air contaminants can impact occupant health.
Activities home owners perform for living that can increase air pollutants. One example of this is combustion. Combustion is a chemical reaction between a fuel and oxygen that can produce a gas product. Cooking with a gas stove is one example that can produce carbon monoxide. It is important to have an exhaust fan in the kitchen when using a gas stove. A wood burning fire place is another where a well exhausted chimney is very important.
Chemicals can be found in building materials. Many furniture and material manufacturers are being asked by the general public what chemicals are in their products that can be harmful to humans. Formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), is an example of one harmful chemical that can be found in adhesives with cabinets and furniture. Carpet adhesive is another material that could also have formaldehyde. VOCs can also be found in paints and stains, hence it is recommended to purchase these products with low VOC content.
Chemicals in kitchens and bathrooms can also be from products homeowners use in their daily living habits. Aerosol sprays, like with cleaning agents, deodorant or perfume, can launch airborne chemicals as far as three feet, which can be more harmful to children who are shorter. It is safer to apply a liquid or power on a surface than an aerosol solution. The best alternative are “safe” cleaning products that claim to be less toxic like Meyer’s Cleaning products. There are also books about “homemade” cleaning products that are natural and eco-friendly. There are currently more and more environmentally safe products are being manufactured and easier to find with Green Seal and Safe Choice labels.
Every home very small insects in the home that can trigger allergic reactions such as asthma, runny nose and watery eyes. A more common one, dust mites, can be removed by a lower humidity and temperature, wash bedding in hot water, and tea tree oil or eucalyptus spray around your bed. Pet dander can cockroaches can also cause allergic reactions for the occupant that can decrease with frequent wiping and vacuuming floors and furniture.
4_High humidity Spaces
Basements and bathrooms are areas with high moisture content. Ensure that the basement is tested for radon gas, which is a natural odorless gas found in soil that can seep into the home through building cracks.
Mold, a fungus, is often seen as mildew around or in the bathtub. Mold grows in high humidity spaces and more commonly where there is poor air ventilation or no exhaust fan. Mold can be removed with a vinegar and bleach mixture. Some people are very allergic to mold and can have an asthma attack when in close proximity.
Ten Ways to Improve Air
1_Have more clean, outdoor air coming indoors with use of exhaust fans or opening windows.
2_ Use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters (8 or 10) to catch smaller airborne pollutants and change filters as recommended (usually 2-3 months).
3_Purchase natural or eco-friendly cleaning products that are not aerosols.
4_Be sure all caulking and grout around windows, doors and bathtubs are no broken or cracked to prevent moisture from collecting.
5_Maintain lower relative humidity levels (45 RH to 55 RH) in all areas of the house, especially bathrooms and basements.
6_Avoid materials and products that might contain high concentrations of harmful chemicals. EPA recommendations can be found here: https://foobot.io/guides/iaq-standards-and-guidelines.php
7_Frequent cleaning and vacuuming of floors, furniture and fabrics.
8_Add plants in areas close to ventilations that can decrease harmful chemicals such as Spider Plant, Jade, Dracaena, Bromeliad and Fern.
9_Always use an exhaust fan after cooking with a gas stove.
10_Replace fluorescent light bulbs with LED bulbs. Some fluorescent light bulbs can have mercury in them.
Exercise often, drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and have less stress. Your life is important to all those who love you. Stay connected.
Delos Living LLC. (2015). WELL Building Standard. Retrieved from https://standard.wellcertified.com/well