Whether you live in a city or somewhere more rural, you will notice the impact of poor outdoor air quality. However, because so much time is spent indoors, and since the COVID-19 pandemic has moved more of us to work remotely at home, the indoor air quality could be more significant than what you would experience outside.
Having good indoor air quality is critical to living and working in a healthy home or work environment. You can improve indoor air quality by reducing the sources of allergens, viruses and irritants around you.
Most of us breathe in more indoor air than outdoor air, which is why indoor air quality matters.
What contributes to poor indoor air quality
Walls, windows and doors have been keeping out unwanted people or outside elements for centuries. Yet air, whether poor or good, will enter a home at some point, bringing in with it airborne irritants that can harm us.
Airborne viruses like the coronavirus and influenza are spread by aerosol particles and droplets of respiratory fluids that contain a virus into the air when they exhale (e.g., quiet breathing, speaking, singing, exercise, coughing, sneezing).
Once the infectious droplets and particles are exhaled, they carry the virus and transmit the infection to others. As indoor air quality is enclosed, the airborne virus droplets are contained and accumulate in the room’s air or space.
Household products and chemicals
Although they do help in keeping your home clean, cleaning products may emit dangerous airborne chemicals. Personal care products, beauty products, paints, pesticides and disinfectants are some of the few purchases you are bringing into the home that can reduce indoor air quality.
Lack of regular cleaning
Cleaning can obviously boost the indoor air quality of a building; there is no surprise there. However, it can improve indoor air quality in seemingly simple things like our products, maintaining tools, and our processes to clean.
It might not seem important, but if a vacuum cleaner vacuums the floor before a surface is dusted, are they effectively removing unwanted material from the building? No, because the dust now falls on the ground or is dispersed into the air in which we breathe.
Cleaning is not only necessary. It is how we clean if we are to improve indoor air quality.
Materials used to build furniture, electronics, and DIY work
These materials can contain dangerous substances in the air and the lungs. Asbestos, lead and formaldehyde are the most common in building materials. Still, many chemicals can be released from mattresses, carpets, and new clothing.
Generally, dust and other fine particles come indoors from burning fuels, wood or even candles for heat and just ambient light. These particles can also form from cooking, as dust particles can drop from an extractor fan over a cooker or even do DIY work where sandpaper is used.
Second-hand smoke from tobacco products is just as harmful inside as it is outside. One in nine people who will die from a tobacco-related disease is not even a cigarette smoker. Second-hand tobacco smoke harms anyone who enters a room and breathes in where a tobacco product was used within the past two hours.
Toxic and other household gases
Gases like methane can build up in the interior environment of a dwelling. Unless you work in an industrial area, the products emitted from industrial combustion will be rare. However, there is still a concern about carbon monoxide due to heating, which is found in homes, offices, and factories.
Allergens that occur naturally outdoors but become concentrated indoors can exacerbate allergies and asthma. Allergens can come from pests, including cockroaches, mice, and dust mites.
Organisms can also release them in the form of pollen or mold. Almost every home has some allergen within its atmosphere. Allergens are invisible to the naked eye and are found on surfaces and in many other places.
Allergens react with people’s immune systems and induce an immune response even if a disease-causing organism has not infected them. Therefore, poor indoor air quality is perilous to people who suffer from allergies and asthma.
It is commonly believed that houseplants can improve the air quality in your home by removing harmful carbon dioxide and producing more oxygen. New research, however, continues to show that houseplants do next to nothing to purify the air in your home. It’s a myth you almost wish hadn’t been busted. Houseplants, though charming, do little to purify the air in a room, say the scientists who study the air we breathe.
Though air passes across environments, indoor spaces are more enclosed than outdoors, thus sealing in air and creating a newer climate. If there is inadequate ventilation, indoor air pollutants can build up from inside sources as they are not released into the outdoor expanse. Not only because indoors is a closed environment, but it also has to do with the activity in the home.
If too little outdoor air enters, indoor air quality can accumulate to levels that pose comfort and health concerns. Unless buildings are built with superb levels of ventilation, those designed and constructed to minimise the amount of outdoor air that can enter will likely have poorer indoor quality levels indoor.
How to improve indoor air quality
You can take the below steps to keep your indoor air clean and avoid potential health problems associated with poor air quality to improve indoor air quality.
- An easy way to keep your indoor air healthy is to ventilate your home regularly if conditions allow. If you live in an area of the world where there are air quality alerts. In that case, you will want to restrict ventilation to the night or other times when you know there is no excessive pollution outside. It is best to keep windows closed during pollen season or extreme air quality events like nearby wildfire smoke.
- It’s essential to establish a regular cleaning routine to remove allergens. It’s equally crucial that your cleaning does reduce your indoor air quality. Ensure you work from the top down so that you do not just move dust around and wear a mask when cleaning or have someone else do the cleaning whilst you leave the area.
- Houseplants – If you have houseplants, a home herb garden, or potted herbs, ensure mould is kept from building up. Plant them in soil and only water them when the soil is dry. And don’t forget to trim the leaves when they look like they are dying.
- Many homes have combined heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning or HVAC systems. It is vital to clean the furnace and change the filter regularly. Suppose the HVAC filter is exposed to condensation. In that case, mould growth is likely to develop, and the HVAC system may then blow mould spores into the home, which is a significant health risk. The same is true of bacteria and viruses, which can spread throughout the air if conditions allow microbial growth on the filter. Another consideration is that a dirty filter will make the entire system much less efficient and waste energy.
- Additionally, suppose you have pets in the home. In that case, it’s essential to change the HVAC filters regularly to prevent the spread of the pet dander within the HVAC system. Also, keep pets away from areas of sleeping and washing, like bathrooms and bedrooms.
- The kitchen is commonplace to find allergens like mould and pests like silverfish and cockroaches. Ensure you fix leaks from your sink, dishwasher, food disposable unit in your sink and refrigerator water line, and remove all traces of mould. Also, don’t let dirty dishes build up and regularly take out the rubbish.
- Bedrooms can harbour all sorts of allergens and airborne pollutants if the bed sheets are not cleaned regularly or replaced after a few years (including the pillows). If you can, do not let pets into your bedroom or on the bed.
- Use a standalone air purifier, or even better, a wearable air purifier. Air purifiers, if kept clean, can provide better air quality once they have purified a room. This can take some time and look bulky in an office or house room. A wearable air purifier is ideal for those wanting to ensure clean air is blown onto the face and have the ability to kill harmful airborne viruses like influenza or the coronavirus. Plus, as you take it with you, you can breathe cleaner indoor air no matter where you walk around the office or at home.
One solution to better indoor air quality
For the most part, our homes protect us from harmful outdoor air quality. Still, as this article discusses, the threat of potential harm is more prevalent indoors than outside.
Along with keeping the wearer safe from harmful viruses, a long-term solution for poor indoor air quality is to invest in a reusable wearable air purifier. Two third-party university laboratories tested and verified the patent-pending UV-C LED technology within Respiray’s wearable air purifier.
Unlike standalone and traditional air purifiers that consume harmful viruses and blow around the air, Respiray’s device inactivates harmful viruses and blows clean air onto the wearer, no matter where they are within an office, home or on the move.