Indoor air pollution is a problem. It can cause a number of health complaints, including nausea and fatigue.
Poor air quality indoors can lead to something called sick building syndrome.
Years ago, buildings had more natural ventilation. Modern construction, though, seals up many of the holes that allows air to flow inside.
Carpets and construction materials can also emit what’s known as “volatile organic compounds” or VOC’s. Many of these are toxic.
The Environmental Protection Agency notes that indoor concentrations of VOC’s are as much as 10 times higher than what’s found outdoors.
These VOC’s compounds found in a wide range of consumer goods numbering in the thousands, according to the EPA.
In addition, we use a lot of chemicals. In our washing machines, our dishwashers and on ourselves.
But there are easy ways to reduce indoor air pollution. So keep reading.
5 Ways To Get Rid of Indoor Air Pollution
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The Environmental Protection Agency cites inadequate ventilation as a primary cause of indoor air pollution.
“If too little outdoor air enters indoors, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems,” notes the EPA on its government website.
Newer homes tend to be better insulated than older homes. This is a plus if you’re trying to save on energy. But it also allows for potentially toxic buildup.
Poor Ventilation and Indoor Air Pollution
Also, some construction supplies in newer buildings may give off potentially toxic fumes. That’s why I try to to home repairs in warm weather, so I can open the windows. I definitely like to do this is we’re applying a fresh coat of paint.
Another thing I try to do is to open my windows whenever I can. This includes during the summer.
Even though summers get hot where we live, one family member reacts badly to air conditioning. (Or at least to our particular air conditioning unit.)
So I try to cool the house naturally, by opening windows in the later afternoon through the next morning. Then I close them around 10 or 11 am, when the sun is strong. I don’t open them again until around 4 or 5 pm.
If you live in a well-insulated house, you may want to consider adding a few houseplants to areas where you spend a lot of time. There is some evidence that leafy green plants help clean the air, even of VOC’s.
Household Cleaners and Indoor Air Pollution
One of the easiest lifestyle changes I made was switching out toxic cleaning products for more natural solutions. I gave up nothing in cleaning power.
Natural plant-based cleaning agents can work just as well as chemical solutions. Plus they smell so much better.
Once you get rid of the chemicals, you realize how much they stink. And you never want to go back to using them again.
Fortunately, we can now choose from a growing array of natural household cleaners. So you really can toss those chemicals.
The only problem, though, is that you have to shop carefully. Even for products marketed as “organic” or “green.”
A study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal found that these more “natural” products emitted many of the same compounds as the regular ones you find in the grocery store.
The products surveyed (and this is alarming) emitted more than 100 different kinds of what’s known as “volatile organic compounds.” Some of these are considered hazardous.
Needless to say, I’m very careful even with “natural” products. I prefer to make my own cleaning solutions with essential oils and liquid Castile soap.
The brand I use is Dr Woods soap because I believe it’s a better value than a better known competitor. If you can’t find Dr. Woods locally, you can order it online.
Scented Candles and Indoor Air Pollution
Scented candles are one of the last things I want in my house. That’s because they’re made from a paraffin base.
Paraffin is a petroleum byproduct. So the idea of burning a paraffin candle reminds me of running a diesel truck in my kitchen. It’s something I just wouldn’t do.
The there’s the added problem of artificial fragrances. An assortment of chemicals, some of them potentially toxic, may be in your candle.
So what happens when these chemicals are heated and dispersed into the air? I’m not sure anyone really knows, because I don’t think the issue is well studied.
Once I started learning more about scented candles and indoor air pollution I stopped using them. Never again.
Now, before company comes, I put nice smelling essential oils in a cold air diffuser. These plant-based aromatic oils are highly concentrated and non toxic. They are heated. Instead, the diffuser spreads a nice mist through the air.
But if you really like candles, another option is to use natural beeswax candles, instead of paraffin candles. Beeswax candles are probably available at your local health food store. You can also find them online.
Mold and Indoor Air Pollution
Mold growth is something to be avoided. The way to avoid it is not to give mold spores a place to grow. This means depriving them of moisture.
One way to do that is to run a portable dehumidifier in places of high humidity, such as a basement.
However, I also notice a moldy smell coming from the dehumidifier. I try to fight it with essential oils. Tea tree essential oil would be a good choice, because that aromatic oil can fight mold like no other.
However, tea tree essential oil also has a strong smell. So, instead, I often use a germ fighting essential oil blend, which has a more pleasant odor.
One thing I don’t do is stress about mold. Because we can only control it so much.
The mainstream medical site WebMD notes that “It’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores in your home.”
But I try to do my best.
Human Exposure to Flea and Tick Products
Flea and tick products are a surprising source of indoor pollution. Maybe not in the air you breathe.
But chemicals used on powders, shampoos and especially flea collars do not stay on the animal. Instead, they’re spread to humans every time you pet your dog.
Commercial flea products can cause reactions in pets, including seizures and even death. Thousands of pet deaths have been reported.
So called spot-on treatments seem to be the among the riskiest.
But flea collars present a possible risk to humans, according to the National Resources Defense Council, which has urged consumers to avoid collars altogether, or at least don’t buy those that contain tetrachlorvinphos, carbaryl, and propoxur. (The good news is that some of the most toxic collars are being phased out.)
More good news. It’s possible to control fleas with natural plant-based products, such as Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Spray, which you can see below.
We use natural flea control on our own dog, who is now pushing 17. (However, check with your vet, as some products may not be right for some animals, including pregnant females. Never use an essential oil based product on a cat. Felines lack a liver enzyme that allows them to metabolize essential oils.)
For More Reading
Introduction To Indoor Air Quality
Non Toxic Ways To Protect Your Pet
Indoor Air Quality and Scented Products
Can Indoor Plants Help Purify the Air?