We all know that air pollution is a big risk to human health and research suggests that 9 out of 10 people in the world breathes in polluted air. The World Health Association (also known as WHO) say that countries can reduce disease like stroke, lung cancer, heart disease and acute and chronic respiratory diseases if air pollution levels were reduced. I guess you would think when you’ve shut your door to the outside world and hunker down in your home you have a safe space that isn’t polluted…but you could be wrong. We aren’t just exposed to dangerous levels of toxins when we are outside our homes, in fact the air inside our homes can be just as harmful to our health. I thought this was the perfect time to write a post about this as many of us are finding ourselves in lockdown isolating due to the global crisis we are facing at the moment so we are in our homes basically all day at the moment.
There is alot of media focus on pollution outdoors especially from vehicle emissions but I think it’s just as important to turn our focus to the air quality inside our own homes too. I’m not just talking about neutralising nasty odours in our homes but instead the invisible and hidden toxins you can’t smell. If the outside air pollution is affecting people’s health and lives so much then surely toxins inside our own home are doing the same thing? According to WHO roughly 4.3 million people die worldwide every year from exposure to household air pollution and alot of us spend much of our time indoors so statistics like this sound slightly alarming. There is also something called ‘Toxic Home syndrome’ which is when people are exposed to a potent mix of airborne pollutants when the home is poorly ventilated and this can cause respiratory problems and skin diseases to occur more frequently and in some cases even worsen. So what are the actual causes of indoor pollution?
What Can Cause a Toxic Home?
- Mould – Mould within the home is caused by poor ventilation and increased humidity. Once mould has grown it releases into the air invisible spores which can quickly find their way into our lungs so it’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible. Mould allergies can sometimes cause worse asthma and homes with mould are likely to have higher dust mite allergen levels which can worsen skin conditions and respiratory problems. Having a lack of adequate ventilation in the home can also cause a build up of non-allergenic noxious fumes which can be very harmful to our health. To prevent mould you need proper ventilation so open up the windows as much as possible and if you have a small area of the house that is more prone to dampness then consider putting a fan there to help speed up the drying process (for example; after you’ve used the shower.)
- Cooking Fumes – There has been various studies and tests done for testing particles when cooking various meals. One study undertaken by the HOMEChem project was testing tiny particles called PM2.5s which when inhaled are linked to heart disease, lung cancer and strokes. The conclusion was that fumes from cooking some meals can be more than 20 times over the WHO’s safe outdoor limits! The high levels also stayed around generally for around an hour after the cooker was used. Another study found that cooking a typical ‘sunday roast’ caused the air to turn toxic with potentially damaging consequences. I’m not sharing this information to scare you from home cooking but just to be aware of the dangerous that we could potentially be exposing ourselves to and don’t even think about. Using an extractor fan whilst cooking is a great way to reduce the toxic levels and opening up as many windows as possible whilst cooking is also a great idea, leaving them open for an hour after you’ve finished cooking would be ideal as then you’ve allowed the toxic air to leave the room.
- Cleaning Products/ Air Fresheners – A clean and tidy home is what everybody likes but pollutants can also be found in cleaning products and air fresheners too so you need to do your research on them before just purchasing any product. The best thing when thinking what to buy is to buy clean…switch to toxin free and natural brands. Alot of cleaning sprays and detergents that you see on the shop shelves are filled with all sorts of unneeded chemicals that can be dangerous to our health. So check the labels!
- Different Types Of Furniture – Certain types of furniture like MDF furniture or memory foam mattresses can give off Volatile Organic Compounds (also known as VOCs) like Formaldehyde. These compounds also are found in certain upholstered furniture and carpets so where you can try to use organic mattresses, natural wooden furniture and flooring.
- Flooring and Walls – When painting the walls always choose Solvent and VOC free paints. Carpets also emit VOCs so be cautious of your flooring choice too. Bamboo or natural wood is the safest choice. But if you do have a carpet installed just be aware that carpets can emit VOCs for up to a few days after installation and Vinyl flooring is usually strengthened with chemicals that also give off gases, so ensure proper ventilation at all times.
- Dust/ Pet Dander – It’s important to keep on top of dust build up and pet dander because they can cause more problems in people who have respiratory problems or allergies. An air purifier is worth considering if there is someone in the household who has these types of problems. Air purifiers are great at ‘cleaning’ the air, they can remove dust, cooking odours, chemicals from cleaning products and can also remove bacteria and virus from the air too. A high performing purifier is your best bet if you were to invest in one.
I hope this opened your eyes up a little to what toxins can also be hiding in our own homes and I hope you found this useful in some way. Feel free to leave any comments down below if you have other household toxic information that you want to add, I would love to know more if you do.
I think my one piece of advice to conclude would be to never be afraid of opening up the windows, the outside air maybe polluted but the air inside your home could be worse…