Is your indoor air quality affecting your health?

If you’re living in London like I do then I’m sure your already wear of how toxic the air, mainly from traffic pollution. But have you thought about your indoor air quality at home or in the work place and how it might be affecting your health on a daily basis?

Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, the quality of the air you breathe can have a big impact on your health. Studies have tied poor outdoor air quality to lung cancer, strokes and heart disease. In fact, air pollution causes 3.3 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the Harvard school of public health.

The air inside your home is typically even more polluted than the air outside, and research shows we spend most of our time indoors, which is all the more reason to start cleaning our indoor air.

Having poor indoor air quality at home on in the work place can affect your health causing symptoms such as:
1. Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
2. Headache
3. Fatigue
4. Shortness of breath
5. Hypersensitivity and allergies
6. Sinus congestion
7. Coughing and sneezing
8. Dizziness
9. Nausea

People generally notice their symptoms after several hours at work and feel better after they have left the building or when they have been away from the building for a weekend or a vacation.
Many of these symptoms may also be caused by other health conditions including common colds or the flu, and are not necessarily due to poor indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality problems result from interactions between building materials and furnishing, activities within the building, climate, and building occupants. Indoor air quality problems may arise from one or more of the following causes:
Indoor environment – inadequate temperature, humidity, poor air circulation, ventilation system issues.
Indoor air contaminants – chemicals, dusts, moulds or fungi, bacteria, gases, vapours, odours.
Insufficient outdoor air intake.

Some of the common air pollutants are:
Carbon dioxide (CO2), tobacco smoke, perfume, body odours – from building occupants.
Dust, fibreglass, asbestos, gases, including formaldehyde – from building materials.
Toxic vapours, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – from workplace cleansers, solvents, pesticides, disinfectants, glues.
Gases, vapours, odours – off-gas emissions from furniture, carpets, and paints.
Dust mites – from carpets, fabric, foam chair cushions.
Microbial contaminants, fungi, moulds, bacteria – from damp areas, stagnant water and condensate pans.
Ozone – from photocopiers, electric motors, electrostatic air cleaners.

How to investigate your indoor air quality

Typically people will report that they are experiencing symptoms believed to be caused by indoor air quality. Unfortunately finding the source or cause can often be difficult. The steps taken may vary from situation to situation but should include:
Investigate the ventilation system to make sure it is operating properly (e.g., the right mix of fresh air, proper distribution, filtration systems are working, etc.).
Look for possible causes (e.g., source of a chemical, renovations, mould, etc.).
Rule out other common causes of the symptoms such as noise, thermal comfort, humidity, ergonomics, lighting, etc.
Consider help and/or air testing by a qualified professional.

So how do I improve my indoor air quality?

· Good air ventilation – open windows for even just five minutes a day to alleviate the accumulation of harmful air pollutants in your indoor air.
· Keep your home or work environment clean with non toxic chemicals. – Many store-bought household cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. If you’re going to use these, at least open windows while you do. But as a greener option, consider making your own household cleaners using ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, citrus juice or essential oils.
· Indoor houseplants – For example, spider plants are effective at reducing benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.
· Uses essential oils instead of chemical air fresheners – Some essential oils, like tea tree oil, have antibacterial properties and can be added to homemade household cleaners and reduce airborne bacteria. Essential oils like eucalyptus, clove and rosemary have been proven to help reduce the number of dust mites in your house, too.
· Take off your shoes – The dirt outside can carry some really yucky stuff: pesticides, pollen, fungi, bacteria or faeces, for example. When you walk inside your house, any or all of that could be on the bottom of your shoes, so it’s best to take them off when you get inside. It’ll help keep your air cleaner — not to mention your floors
· Get rid of mould – This fungus releases spores into the air that can trigger allergy symptoms. It likes to grow in dark, damp places, such as your bathroom, laundry room and basement. But you don’t have to bleach it there are plenty of natural ways to remove it.
· Air out new furniture. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that linger in the air, and they are everywhere in our homes. VOCs such as tolulene and benzene are found in things like glues, paints, fabrics, construction materials and more. When you buy a new sofa or armchair, know this: It will emit VOCs, more heavily at first and then taper off. To reduce the harm to your indoor air, air out as much as possible to allow VOCs to escape. If you can, keep it in your garage for a week, or at least keep the windows in that room open most of the day for the first few months.
· I would strongly suggest getting an air filter, it can be an effective way to reduce harmful particles in the air. The filter needs to be a HEPA air filter. Although this wont filter out some harmful gasses as the partial are too small it will filter out ultra fine partials such as dust, mould, pollen, viruses and other common allergens in the home. The Dyson air purifier gets great reviews but it is expensive.

· Use an air de humidifier if you suspect damp and mould is a problem in your home or office.

Useful links:

Thanks for reading

Bianca Downey

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