The quality of the air you breathe inside your home has a significant impact on your health. Here’s a look at managing indoor pollution.
We sometimes focus so much on finding time to get outside to enjoy the fresh air that we neglect thinking about the quality of the air in our indoor living spaces.
The quality of the air in your home can have a significant impact on how you feel, the ease of which you can breathe, and your overall health and well-being. According to immunopharmacology professor Stephen Holgate, many people are unaware that the air inside homes is often more polluted than the atmosphere outside. This is due to the accumulation of dust, mould, allergens and chemicals indoors. A joint report from Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in the UK warns that toxic fumes from air fresheners and cleaning products could emit carbon monoxide emissions, which in high doses, can pose fatal threat at home.
Indoor pollution can increase your risk of asthma, colds, hay fever, sinus irritation, headaches and nausea. It can also cause your skin to become more sensitive and trigger skin conditions like eczema. In the long term, polluted air has even been linked to liver or kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and damage of the central nervous system.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR INDOOR AIR QUALITY
1. Wipe Out Mould
Dampness and mould can trigger asthma and cause other respiratory diseases, and also releases toxins that can affect mental performance, vision and balance.
Check your fridge, bathroom, window frames and clothes in your wardrobe for condensation, mould or dampness. If you spot any, there are several things you can do that can make a difference. Open the windows regularly, buy a dehumidifier or air purifier, and perhaps, invest in a home ventilation system.
2. Reduce Outside Air from Getting In
Pollution from vehicles outdoors can irritate your airways and eyes. Severe pollution can lead to a negative effect on vision, depression, and learning and memory problems. If you live near a busy road or an expressway, open your windows during times of the day when the streets are quieter to minimise fumes, especially if you have small children.
3. Reduce VOCs in your Home
Household sprays often contain chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which start off as solids or liquids but readily evaporate into the air. These gases, such as formaldehyde and benzene, are released from household items like aerosol sprays, air fresheners and pesticides. A VOC called limonene, which is used abundantly in air fresheners and fragrant candles to produce a lemon citrus scent, can react with the ozone to increase formaldehyde levels in the air. Also, after a home renovation, items like building materials, paint, new carpet or upholstery, can all leach more chemicals into the air. These chemicals could irritate your eyes, nose and throat, and lead to headaches, shortness of breath, skin irritation and nausea.
You can use air purifiers with activated carbon filters to remove VOCs from the air, and switch to chemical-free products. Also, be sure to ventilate after you bring in new VOC sources into your house, such as new carpets, furniture, or drapes.
SAY YES TO HEPA
Upgrade to a vacuum with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filter which is proved to collect even microscopic dust mite droppings. You can head over to the National Environmental Agency website for a list of portable air cleaners that have been found to be able to reduce the level of fine particles in a typical HDB bedroom.
Microfiber dust mop and cloths are excellent at reaching into the nooks and crannies that your vacuum cleaner cannot reach.
OPT FOR ECO-FRIENDLY, NON-TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS
Aside from using eco-friendly cleaning products, you can also make your own cleaners. All you need are simple ingredients like baking soda, salt, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice. For instance, you can make an all-purpose cleaner by mixing 2 cups water, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide and ¼ cup lemon juice together.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: SIMONE WU