What You Need to Know About the Air You Breathe

attractive woman breathing and relaxing

Air pollution takes many different forms. The idea that there is “one kind” of air pollution is a dangerous one. For example, air pollution doesn’t just come from outside. In fact air pollution can come from the goods you put inside your home. Most homes contain a range of volatile organic compounds or VOCs that can damage health. Alarmingly, many VOCs are suspected carcinogens and can lead to leukemia with prolonged exposure. In short, air quality couldn’t be any more serious of an issue.


Don’t Let Bad Air Quality Impact Your Health


Sources of indoor air pollution often surprise many people. Indoor air pollution sources range from building materials to paint and even seemingly harmless furniture. A large percentage of modern furniture and even items such as kitchen cabinets are not exactly what they seem. Instead of being solid wood, many modern furniture offerings are in fact little more than sawdust and wood remnants held together with chemicals and glues.


The “cheap” furniture one finds at many big box retailers are actually of such low quality that it starts to fall apart within just a couple of years. The bigger problem, however, is the fact this “MDF” or particleboard furniture also degasses and will do so for years. In the process, harmful chemicals including formaldehyde are released into the air.


The situation with household furniture, such as soft chairs and couches, is no better. The stuffing material in most chairs and couches are derived from petroleum products, chemicals and very dangerous flame-retardants. Such furniture will often degas for years.


The Amazing World of Low VOC Products


All of this is a bit depressing, but there are steps you can take to avoid poor indoor air quality. At the top of the list is to use low VOC products. Paint can release a tremendous amount of VOCs and continue to do so for a long time. Most large paint companies and many smaller companies now offer low VOC paint. Then there are also “green paint options” that have very low VOC. (And no these paints are always the color green.) The bottom line is that low VOC options are now out there and you can find them without too much trouble.


Carpets and Floors


Want to finish your hardwood floors or install carpeting? Flooring finishes are usually little more than chemicals and carpet will degas for years. That “new house” smell you’ve probably noticed is, in fact, VOCs being released into the air from a range of new materials.


Floor finishing can be particularly hazardous when newly applied and should be avoided. It is no accident that many people who smell some floor finishing products compare the smell to paint thinner. The good news is that there are natural low VOC floor finishing options and low VOC carpeting options, such as wool carpet.


NASA Weighs in On Plants


Sometimes you can’t help what is in your home and removal is impractical. Luckily, there are steps you can take. An inexpensive and prudent step is to populate your home with plants. Plants, such as ferns and snake plants, are extremely good at removing a range of contaminants from the air. The best scores in the NASA clean air study went to peace lily and florist’s chrysanthemum’s which both removed benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia, all of which are some of the most common indoor air pollutants.


In a NASA experiment, it was discovered that very common plants, such as ferns, worked remarkably well for reducing contaminants from the air. Snake plants are a very wise choice for anyone looking to improve the quality of his or her indoor air quality. The reason is that snake plants are very tough. These durable plants need virtually no love to thrive and are often used in many of most toxic indoor environments, such as newly constructed office spaces and shopping malls. Plants also boost one’s mood. It’s a win all the way around.


Finding a Great Air Purifier


In addition to plants, air purifiers can work extremely well for cleaning the air. Of course air purifiers come in all shapes, sizes, performance levels and prices. Finding the right one can be tricky and can also take a lot of research. Air purifiers that use ion technology should be avoided as some researchers worry that the technology might be hazardous to human health.


Low-end air purifiers, for example, those costing under $100 don’t usually perform very well. Consumer Reports has given good scores to Honeywell’s HPA300. While they have not yet reviewed the IQAir, this air filter has impressive capabilities and three layers of different filters including a hyper-HEPA filter. It is important to note that IQAir products are, however, far more expensive than most other air purifiers.


Easy Tricks to Improve Your Air Quality


There are many other steps one can take to improve indoor air quality. One of the best options is to frequently replace the filter in your home’s HVAC system and opt for a high quality filter. Your home’s HVAC filter is your first line of defense when it comes to clean air.


Another prudent move is to use a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. These filters are designed to catch small particles and trap them. Periodically cleaning these filters every few months is a must in order to maintain optimal performance.

There are plenty of steps you can take to maintain air quality. Achieving great indoor air quality is a process. Don’t attempt to change everything at once. Instead, chip away at the problem of poor indoor air quality one bit at a time. While it make take some effort, great indoor air quality is invaluable for your health and has even been shown to help boost productivity.

Posted by July 02, 2015 at 10:45 PM under Environment Home Living Tips

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.