How to Improve Indoor Air Quality & Avoid Pollution at Home

A Guide Looking at Ways to Counter Home Air Pollution, Maintain Indoor Air Quality, and Protect Your Health.

By Amanda Winstead

Many major cities across the globe have initiatives in place to fight air pollution, but it remains a major problem in the lives of millions of people. There are some types of air pollution that seem nearly impossible to contain with the industrial advancements our world continues to make.

While the government, corporations, and private organizations need to continue to fight pollution on a global scale, it’s just as crucial to counter it in your own home. Safeguarding your living space against pollution and improving your air quality can make a big difference in your health and well-being.

Thankfully, it’s easier to reduce indoor air pollution than you might think. By taking a few practical steps, you can maintain high indoor air quality and significantly benefit your health. Implement some of these practices for a healthier home, a more sustainable environment, and a family who can breathe with ease. You might be surprised by how much of a difference you can make with a few changes.

What Are the Risks of Air Pollution?

Most of us recognize pollution as a negative thing, but aren’t fully aware of what it could be doing to our homes and our health. At the very least, pollutants can wreak havoc on your respiratory system. If you or someone you live with already struggles with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory issues, pollutants can make their symptoms much worse and make it difficult to breathe freely.

Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning. Air pollution has been linked to a variety of serious health issues, including:

  • Lung cancer;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • COPD;
  • Pneumonia.

Some of the most common home air pollutants include everything from carbon monoxide and radon to mold, pet dander, and environmental tobacco smoke. Because of the compounds these pollutants are made of, each one can impact your health differently and put you and your family at risk for various illnesses.

Children and older adults are often more susceptible to the issues associated with pollutants because of their respiratory strength and weaker immune systems.

Perhaps the worst part is that so many air pollutants go undetected, especially in homes, for too long. You might not recognize there’s a problem unless you’re proactive and maintaining indoor air quality – or until someone gets sick.

How to Detect Air Pollution at Home

To protect you and your loved ones, look for some of the most notable signs of poor indoor air quality. Often, you’ll notice unpleasant smells before anything else. If you smell a musty odor, you could have mold growing somewhere. The smell of dirty socks could indicate that there’s some kind of bacterial growth spreading throughout the home. A bitter smell could be a sign of poor ventilation.

Other common signs of air pollution to be aware of include:

  • Excess humidity;
  • Pockets of hot and cold air;
  • Respiratory symptoms;
  • Difficulty sleeping;
  • Allergy symptoms;
  • Dust buildup;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fatigue.

Even if you notice that you’re not feeling well or your home feels or smells “off” somehow, it can be hard for the average person to pinpoint exactly what kind of contaminant is causing the problem. Your best option is to call a specialist to get to the root cause, so you can take preventative measures and start cleaning up the air in your living space. Some contaminants might require more invasive measures than others to get rid of, but don’t wait for someone in your family to get sick or for the structure of your home to be compromised before you take action.

Maintaining Ventilation

Ventilation issues play a big role in indoor air quality. The average person spends 90% of their time indoors, and if your home isn’t properly ventilated, pollutants could be lingering and causing serious health damage.

Ventilation needs can change depending on your specific environment, or even the season you’re facing. For example, humidity plays a big role in areas of the southern U.S., and can lead to mold growth. However, there are universal activities that can also contribute to mold growth like cooking and showering and can increase the growth of mold during the summer. If you live in these areas invest in HVAC systems that dehumidify the air, or even smaller, portable dehumidifiers during the summer.

Good ventilation doesn’t just reduce air contaminants. It helps to draw in fresh, clean air, giving you the best of both worlds when it comes to stopping the effects of pollution. According to the CDC, there are multiple ways to effectively ventilate your home, including the following:

  • Bring as much fresh air inside as possible. Open doors and windows whenever it’s safe to do so, and utilize fans throughout the home to circulate the air. If you’re allergic to pollen or other substances, don’t open the windows when pollen count is high. The same advice applies during times of the year when the air quality index (AQI) is high.
  • Make sure your HVAC system is running efficiently and change the filter regularly. If pollutants are particularly a problem in certain areas of your house, consider investing in an air purifier. You can purchase a small purifier or one that will cover the whole house. Whatever you decide, make sure it has a HEPA filter that can help remove allergens from the home and make it easier for those with respiratory issues to breathe.
  • Utilize exhaust fans whenever possible. These fans help to move air outside and improve the overall flow of air in your home. That keeps things from becoming stagnant, so if there’s bacteria in the air – especially in the bathroom or kitchen, it won’t simply stay concentrated in one place. It will be redirected out of the home.
  • Limit the number of visitors you have in your home. Every time you let people in, they’re bringing new pollutants and allergens into your home. People could bring in pollen, dander, bacteria, and other contaminants that could end up making someone sick without even realizing it. That doesn’t mean you should never have guests and that you shouldn’t open your home up to friends and family. Instead, consider setting boundaries for guests, like asking them to leave their shoes at the door. It’s a simple request that can make a big difference since it will keep people from bringing pollutants off of their shoes.

In addition, as climate change worsens, scientists expect allergy season to worsen with it, which may affect air quality. Not only will allergy season be longer, but pollen count will rise as well. It’s even more important to maintain the ventilation in your house and consider your air quality even more as this occurs.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality & Avoid Pollution at Home
Image Source: Unsplash

Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Sustainability is at the forefront of everyone’s mind nowadays. A sustainable future is a cleaner one. Thankfully, there are practices you can do at home that will not only help to clear the air but can promote a cleaner, better future for the next generation.

Cleaning your home is a great way to keep allergens at bay. Regularly dusting, vacuuming, and mopping can help with everything from pet dander and dust to reducing the risk of bacteria and mold growth.

But, if you’re using cleaning products with harmful chemicals that could damage the ozone, you’re likely doing more harm than good. If you want to keep your house clean and allergen-free without introducing harsh chemicals, do your research on cleaning products. Be aware of greenwashing and how some companies might appear more “eco-friendly” than they really are. Learn what certain ingredients are and what they do, and reach for natural products as often as possible. Or, consider making your own.

In addition to keeping things clean, you can also improve the air quality in your home sustainably by:

  • Introducing air-purifying plants into your decor;
  • Making natural scent diffusers;
  • Using beeswax candles;
  • Taking shoes off at the door instead of tracking in pollutants like pollen;
  • Keeping your pets groomed;
  • Airing out new furniture before bringing it into the home.

Ultimately, air pollution is coming from outside. Everyone needs to do their part to reduce pollution, in general, and you won’t have to worry as much about how to keep the air clean in your home.

From a sustainable standpoint, things like driving your car less often, using less energy, and reducing waste are all great ways to cut back on air pollution from the outside in. You might not think these habits and practices will do much in the grand scheme of things. But, the average vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of CO2 each year, and 400 grams of CO2 per mile. If you could just cut down on a few miles each day, think about how much that number would reduce.

Using less energy, especially at home, is easier than you might think. Simply turning off lights when you’re not in a room, switching to LED bulbs, and taking shorter showers can help you save money on your utility bills while reducing energy consumption.

There’s no question that indoor air quality is important for your health, and the health of the planet. Keep these ideas in mind to counter pollution at home and create a safe, healthy space for your family that allows everyone to breathe comfortably. With a few simple changes, you can fight back against air contaminants and enjoy fresh, clean air in the comfort of your living space.

About the Author

Amanda Winstead is a writer focusing on many topics including technology and digital marketing. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.

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