Indoor air pollution and how to reduce it

Man sneezing due to indoor air pollution

According to the British Lung Foundation we spend about 90% of our time indoors. However, did you know that indoor air is anything between 5 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air? It’s pretty astonishing isn’t it? So we are tackling indoor air pollution head on…

We all know that polluted air has a wide range of harmful effects on our health. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 3.8 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution. Harmful effects on our health can include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and a whole heap more.

Poor indoor air quality is also particularly harmful for people with pre-existing conditions but children are also particularly at risk because their lungs are still developing and their breathing rates are faster.

What causes indoor pollution?

Household chemicals

The chemicals we use to decorate and clean our homes can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Examples of cleaning and decorating products whichcontain these include:
 
  • Air fresheners
  • Furniture polish
  • Oven cleaners
  • Paints
  • Varnishes

50% of studies have suggested that being exposed to VOC chemicals, for example acetone and formaldehyde, increase the risk of developing asthma or an allergy. Products which contain formaldehyde must be clearly labelled as directedby EU regulations.

Respiratory irritation can also be caused if you use bleach based cleaning products, and apply them with a spray.
Indoor air pollution and how to reduce it 1

Cooking and heating

Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using polluting fuels which release two types of pollutants. Particle Matter (microscopic particles of dust and dirt in the air) and gases. The most well known being carbon monoxide.

If these end up in your home, it’s essential to remove them as quickly as possible. That’s why gas heaters and cookers have a flue, chimney, or other kind of vent which allows these pollutants out of your home. However, an alternative and safer option would be electric ovens and electric heating because it is only the burning of a combustable fuel which causes carbon monoxide.
 
If like many Brits, you enjoy the warmth of a wood burning stove or an open fire, these can also release harmful Particle Matter. Irritation can be caused to your nose and throat, giving you a cough or breathing problems. In the most extreme of cases it can cause lung and heart disease and even cause the severity of asthma to increase.
Female using a gas hob to cook - indoor air pollution

Incense and candles

Unsurprisingly incense and candles emit pollutants when they burn. In fact incense sticks release 100x more fine particles than candles when they burn, so high exposure should be avoided. E.g. avoid burning incense sticks continuously through the day.

Candles can significantly increase the concentration of airborne particles whilst burning. Scented candles emit small amounts of
formaldehyde and VOCs but occasional use of these candles will not give you much risk.
Incense and candles buring - indoor air pollution

Smoking

Particles from smoking indoors can last up to 5 hours at harmful levels which will have a huge impact on others living in the home.

Simply opening a window or door won’t make it safer. The smoke will blow back inside and can also stick to surfaces such as clothes and furniture which can get released later in more harmful forms (third-hand smoking).
 
The harmful particles that smoking produces can cause your nose or throat to become irritated and you may find it slightly more difficult to breathe as well as you once did. The long term risk of breathing in tobacco smoke is well publicised as causing lung cancer. It is also particularly harmful to children because they are more likely to develop long-term lung conditions when they get older.
Female smoking by window - indoor air pollution

How to reduce indoor air pollution in your home

Open windows

Sounds easy right? It is, but be mindful of when you do open your windows. For hay fever sufferers it is better to not open windows in the morning when pollen is high. If you live on a busy road, try not to open windows in rush hour. Actually did you know that one of the best seasons to open your windows is in winter!

Use less harmful cleaning products

Indoor air pollution can actually be caused by regular exposure to cleaning products. However we aren’t suggesting to stop cleaning altogether but instead to use much less toxic products and consider using different ways to tackle those cleaning jobs. For example:
 
  • Look for products that are allergy friendly, because these have lower levels of volatile chemicals and are usually fragrance-free.
  • Don’t use spray based cleaners as they get into the air, meaning that you areat greater risk of inhaling the pollutants.
  • Common baking soda is perfect to remove stains, smells and it’s non-abrasive. It’s a great alternative to using bleach based products.
  • To tackle tough bacteria, why not try using microfibre cloths. Just rinse, wring and wipe because they are designed to remove 99% of bacteria.
  • However, if you want to go up to the next couple of levels, we would recommend wiping down all surfaces with ThermoSphere XtraSAN as it is proven to kill 99.9999% of viruses and bacteria.

Go electric

We all know the convenience of gas wood burning stoves are comfy, but not only do they produce indoor air pollution, they also contribute to condensation which can cause indoor mould (another thing bad for our health). By moving to electric heating such as electric underfloor heating or electric radiators you will have no pollutants to worry you.

Got pets? Vacuum regularly

If like many others, you own a dog or cat, you should be running the vacuum cleaner around the house regularly.

Why? Because pet dander adds to the air pollution in your home and dogs and cats often moult. Pollen can also attach itself to your pet’s fur and be brought indoors which will flare up symptoms in any hay fever sufferer.

Don't encourage damp

Always try and keep the humidity levels in your home a a minimum. High humidity levels can cause respiratory problems, and provide a breeding ground for mould spores and dust mites.

Pet fur on furniture - indoor air pollution

Ways of preventing a rise in humidity levels, apart from simply opening windows, include avoiding hanging wet washing indoors. Try using a clothes airer rather than carefully balancing your washing on radiators around your home and never ever put damp clothes in your wardrobe. Simply, place your clothes airer in the spot in your home which gets the most sunshine (as long as it’s not your bedroom) and you are done!.

Consider using an air purifier

ThermoSphere Ozone free TeqAir ionic air purifiers mimic nature to recreate natural ion production and act as natural air cleansers inside your home and work environments. They reduce 99% of airborne particles and germs including:

  • Fine particles
  • Viruses & bacteria
  • Pollen
  • Pet allergens
  • Mould
  • Smells
 
A few more ways to reduce indoor air pollution:
 
  • Ensure ample ventilation when painting and decorating.
  • Don’t smoke indoors. Go outside and shut the door behind you.
  • Always turn on the extractor fan when cooking. No matter how annoying you may find them.
And finally…
Please install a carbon monoxide alarm and remember to position it correctly…it should never be hidden away or blocked. Even non-fatal levels of CO can be harmful, particularly for anyone with underlying health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
 
If you have any questions regarding any detail including in this article, please contact one of our friendly team by calling 0800 019 5899 or email hello@thermosphere.com.
 
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