The air we breathe is a part of our everyday lives, but can often be something we take for granted. However, air quality, and the presence of various pollutants can have a direct impact on our health. Follow these tips to keep the air in buildings you inhabit clean and protect your health!
Toxins can enter a home or apartment through a variety of means, even consumer goods. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) examined the contents of hundreds of cleaning products and more than half of them were found to contain harmful chemicals. Some of these chemicals can result in irritation of the skin, eyes, and lungs, or even permanent damage such as blindness. Instead of reaching for conventions products, consider using natural cleaners. Everyday household items such as vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda can be used in place of store bought cleaners.
Be aware of older homes
Toxins can be especially prevalent in older homes and buildings, either due to building materials wearing down with time, or because hazardous materials were used in the original construction. Exterior cracks can allow radon gas to enter a building, unmaintained or leaky HVACs can contribute to mold development, and asbestos fibers and lead dust can be disturbed during renovations. The health risks associated with these issues can range from inconvenient to severe, including allergic reactions or lung cancer. Asbestos in particular can lead to very aggressive cancers with few treatments and a reduced prognosis. But luckily, all of these health issues are completely preventable with proper building maintenance and resident awareness.
This isn’t to say that older homes and buildings are unlivable. Rather it’s important to be aware of any risks and know that your building is well maintained. Additionally, it’s also important for the building owners to be aware of any potential concerns in order to protect their tenants.
Use nature to your advantage
If you know that there are unavoidable toxins in your home, there are a few natural methods to improve indoor air quality. One is increasing ventilation, which can be as simple as opening a door or window. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests improving ventilation as a major strategy to help dilute pollutants in indoor air, especially during activities such as painting, cooking, or cleaning that can release high levels of pollutants for a short period of time.
This strategy of course is weather dependent as well as seasonal. Other options for improving ventilation include structural or system updates that can be made to improve air-flow throughout a building. But if a major renovation isn’t on the table, another simple solution is to introduce plants that will filter particulates from the air. Here’s a list of some plants that can help to purify air and have the additional benefit of being incredibly hardy. A few of the chemicals that they remove are benzene and formaldehyde, which are known human carcinogens.
Keep an eye on humidity and circulation
Excessive moisture in the air and heat can encourage the growth of mold. Common places mold can be encountered are basements and bathrooms, or any area where air doesn’t circulate properly. Mold can release spores into the air that can impact the respiratory system, so it’s important not only to remove it once it’s spotted, but to do so safely. This can be as simple as covering your nose and mouth with a mask and wearing gloves.
It’s certainly to your advantage to prevent mold rather than to remove it, which can be time consuming and costly. Instead, consider ways to improve air circulation and reduce humidity. Actions like turning on a fan in the bathroom, or utilizing a dehumidifier can help prevent the growth of this toxin and keep the air clean.
Protecting our health is important, and we have to pay attention to the air quality in the places where we live. Awareness is the first step toward breathing easier and mitigating any potential health risks. Each of these strategies will help improve indoor air quality and the health of those that call a particular space home.