What's with Indoor Air Pollution? (And How To Keep Your Air at it's Best)

 
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Sometimes easing stress just takes one deep breath in and one long exhale out. That’s why it’s so important that we are breathing the best air possible! According to the EPA, people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. This means for most people, risk of illness due to indoor air pollution is greater than illness due to outdoor air pollution. I spend a lot of time in my home working, lounging and most importantly, getting my nightly 8 hours of sleep (very important!), so when I found out about indoor air pollution, I naturally got a bit worried. But not to fret, we’re gonna outline what to look out for and how you can keep your home safe and protect yourself from indoor air pollutants!

WTF IS INDOOR AIR QUALITY AND INDOOR AIR POLLUTION!?

Indoor air quality quite simply refers to the quality of the air we breathe in buildings, structures and most importantly, our homes. It’s no secret that the air outside is polluted, but it turns out that the air in our homes can be just as polluted or even worse. Immediate effects of indoor air pollution include irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Long term exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to respiratory diseases, heart disease and even cancer. Below is a list of the most common indoor air pollutants.

COMMON INDOOR AIR POLLUTANTS

  • Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed in the soil. It is invisible and cannot be seen or smelled. According to the EPA, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. It can seep through openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground.

  • Secondhand Smoke is a mix of smoke given off by burning tobacco products and and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Second hand smoke contains over 7,000 substances, many of which are known to cause cancer. It causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year.

  • Combustion Pollutants are gases and particles emitted from burning materials. Common combustion pollutants include carbon monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that can cause headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea and death. Nitrogen dioxide is also invisible and odorless and can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, and an increased risk of respiratory infection. Combustion pollutants in homes can be caused by fuel burning appliances that are not properly vented. Some of these appliances are gas stoves, fireplaces and dryers.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are released as gases from certain solids and liquids such as everyday household products such as paints, varnishes, cleaning and disinfecting products, and cosmetics that contain organic solvents.  Exposure to VOC’s could result in health side effects such as headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system.

  • Molds are living organisms that produce spores that float in the air and land on damp surfaces and grow. Inhaling or touching mold can cause sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes. Molds can also trigger asthma attacks.

TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY

  • Test your home for Radon

  • Consider installing a Carbon Monoxide alarm

  • Do not let people smoke inside

  • Change central heating and air conditioning filters often

  • Ventilate rooms with fuel burning appliances and frequently check for leaks

  • Keep humidity at a healthy level of 30%-50% to help reduce likelihood of mold growing (here is some more info on healthy humidity levels!)

  • Limit the use of cleaners or replace them with nontoxic versions

  • Choose fragrance-free cleaning products

  • Keep the use of air fresheners and scented candles to a minimum. Avoid candles made of paraffin wax, a petroleum byproduct that releases carcinogenic soot when burned and can aggravate pre-existing respiratory conditions. Opt for soy based candles. At NTR we got you covered! Our online marketplace offers some amazing environmentally friendly, vegan soy candles with cotton wicks in several scents.

  • Incorporate house plants into your space to help absorb harmful VOC’s!

  • Let the fresh air in. Open your windows when the weather is nice!

Although it is difficult to completely eliminate toxins in our life, it is important to be our own health advocates and create the healthiest environment for ourselves!

 
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Amanda Molinas

Amanda is a proud xicana and intersectional feminist. She loves the outdoors, her cats, and Jurassic Park. She cares deeply about social and environmental justice, being a compassionate human being and writing and performing poetry. When she isn’t advocating for the environment, she is most likely learning about paranormal phenomenon or just lounging around.

 
Monica Schrock