Why not kick off the year with a resolution to improve indoor air quality? Indoor air pollution is associated with a number of health problems, such as asthma and other allergies, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), respiratory and heart disease, and lung cancer. We spend most of our time indoors, at home, at school or in the workplace, and are exposed to a wide range of pollutants including allergens, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen dioxide. Trying out our top tips to improve indoor air quality can be a worthwhile investment in your and your family's health.
1. Ventilation. This is a very important thing you can do to improve indoor air quality in your home if airborne contamination originated from within your home - and if the outside air in the area where you live is relatively clean. So, when did you last open a window? Get into the habit of opening several windows for at least a few minutes every day. This will remove pollutants that originate in your home which. Most modern homes are very well-insulated and heated, and thus tend to build up contamination indoors. To limit mould growth, consider installing extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen to remove steam build up after bathing and cooking. Use a high quality air purifier to eliminate pollen and other outdoor pollutants that enter your home.
2. Shampoo your pets. Are you trying to balance living with an allergy with keeping a pet? Pet dander, especially from cats and dogs, is a potent allergen. Around 40% of people suffering with asthma are also suffering with cats allergies. But if you wash your pet with an allergy friendly dog or cat shampoo, allergens in their fur will be destroyed on contact. Your animal probably loves his or her routine, but it's also crucial to limit their access to rooms in the house. If they are in the habit of lying on your bed, train them out of it. If your pets have any soft toys, remember that they harbour house dust mites – get rid of these by washing the toy with Allergen Wash Laundry Detergenton a regular basis. You can also use this detergent to wash your bedding with it.
3. Switch to electric. An electric cooker is better for your health than a gas cooker. So bear this in mind if you are refurbishing your kitchen. There have been many studies showing this. For instance, kids growing up with gas in the kitchen have twice the risk of developing asthma as those who grow up with second hand smoke, and people cooking with gas are twice as likely to develop respiratory problems as those cooking with electric.
4. Check labels on DIY products.Formaldehyde is a Volatile Organic Compound which, even at low concentrations in the air, can give rise to eye, nose, and throat irritation, particularly among those with asthma. It has also been classed as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Board-based wood products used in flooring, shelving, and flat pack furniture may have high concentrations of formaldehyde which can outgas into the air for many months. Medium density fibreboard (MDF) is the main culprit – if you are using this, look for the 'CE' mark that should certify that it has minimal levels of formaldehyde content.
5. Tear up your carpet.Did you know that a carpet can harbour between 8 and 170 grams of 'deep dust' per square metre? Vacuuming tends to bring this up to the surface, but does not necessarily remove it. Where you have dust, you have house dust mite and its allergen. Consider replacing the carpet with hard flooring which is easier to keep dust-free.
6. Use an air purifier. A portable system, fitted with a high quality filter, will reduce airborne allergens such as house dust mite, pet dander, mould and pollen. Using an air purifier with Hyper HEPA filtration will furthermore capture ultra-fine pollution and take virtually all particulates out of the air. Place the air purifier in the bedroom and living room to clean the air where people spend most of their time.
7. Plan ahead for the pollen season. Bookmark a site that gives pollen counts. On days when the count is high, try not to introduce pollen into the home. Change from your outdoor clothes, and wash your hair free of pollen, when you come in. Keep windows closed too and use your air purifier 24/7.
8. Get rid of damp, mould.House dust mite and mould are two allergens that love damp conditions. Tackle any mould spots in the bathroom, check your shower curtain, and get rid of any old clothes or books which may harbour mould spores.
9. Don't smoke. Public places are now free of second-hand smoke in the United Kingdom. But people can still smoke in their own homes and cars. Maybe you smoke and your resolution for 2012 is to quit. Good luck! Second-hand smoke triggers asthma and exposure to it has also been linked to a 25-30% increased risk of heart disease and a 20-30% increased risk of lung cancer.
10. Declutter. We finish our 2012 recommendations with another really simple tip – get rid of clutter. All those papers, ornaments, books and gadgets that you don't use don't just get in the way – they collect dust and provide a home for allergens. At the bare minimum, keep surfaces clear so you can easily wipe them clean.
Just a little investment in improving indoor air quality during the year could see you freer of allergy symptoms and you will see improvements in long-term health through breathing in fewer pollutants.