A Breath of Fresh Air—Indoors!

Open those windows! It’s good to let the air in your home circulate.

When we think of air pollution, we usually think of smelly, smoggy air outdoors caused by the exhaust from cars and factories. We think about retreating indoors to air conditioned comfort and “clean” air. But it turns out the air inside our homes is often more polluted than the air outside. In fact, a study by the World Health Organization found that the Philippines ranks second for deadliest household air in the Asia Pacific region.

Considering that most people sleep eight hours a night, this means we spend at least a third of our lives indoors, and in some cases people spend up to 90% of their time indoors. This means that poor indoor air quality can have serious impacts on our health, from asthma and allergies to more grave diseases like cancer.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to combat indoor air pollution. Here are five simple steps to getting a fresher breath of air in your home.

1. Avoid harsh chemicals

In an enclosed space, there is more opportunity for pollutants to build up over time. So it helps if you don’t introduce those chemicals into your indoor environment in the first place. Household staples like bleach-based cleaners, insecticides, mosquito coils and even air fresheners can all contribute to the build-up of harmful gasses called VOCs. Seek out natural and low-VOC alternatives to all of these, or even make your own.

2. Fill your home with plants

In the late ‘80s, NASA commissioned a study to figure out how to keep the air in their space stations healthy. This Clean Air Study resulted in a list of common plants that have been found to be effective at removing certain harmful chemicals from air. The study suggests that one plant per 100 square feet of space is a good ratio to keep your home’s air clean.

3. Vacuum and dust often

We often carry outside pollutants and allergens like pollen in with us on our shoes and clothing. And sometimes the particles from the air outside, and pollutants released by household furniture, settle in our homes as dust. You can limit the spread of these throughout your home by leaving your shoes at the door and by investing in a high-quality vacuum cleaner with an HEPA filter. Dust all the surfaces of your home with a damp cloth and vacuum then mop at least once a week to keep the level of these pollutants at a minimum.

4. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate

Unless you live right by a major road, it’s good to let the air in your home circulate with air from the outside to lessen the concentration of anything building up from within. Open up your windows every so often, and make sure you have adequate vents in your bathrooms and kitchen that blow air outside your home. If you use air conditioning often, change the filters according to manufacturer’s instructions as these have some ability to filter your air.

5. Buy a purifier

If you live in an area with heavy outdoor pollution, then it’s tough to maintain good indoor air quality no matter what you try. In these cases, it can be helpful to buy an air purifier to help filter out harmful pollutants. Make sure to buy one with a filter that is at least HEPA quality, and avoid those that are marketed as “ozone” air purifiers. These are based on faulty research, and increasing the level of ozone in your home can actually be bad for your health.

Air purifiers should be placed in the rooms you occupy most often such as the bedroom and living room. And the filters should be replaced as often as the manufacturer recommends to keep the purifier at top performance.

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