Until not too long ago people believed the only reason for their watery eyes, headaches and constant sneezing was the spring time and as long as they kept their windows closed everything should be ok. Well, things are not that simple. Our climate has been in constant change and the global warming has been causing a lot of deviations in how our crops perform. Our spring is no longer starting in April, and in many places the winter is no longer so severe. Therefore, the pollen season is not as defined as it used to be (The rule of thumb used to be tree pollen during early spring; grass pollen in the late spring, early summer; and weed pollens, in the late summer and early fall).
On top of that, we have all the chemicals we bring home on a daily basis making our indoor environment at least twice more polluted than the exterior one. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), due to pollutants, the indoor air quality levels of a house can be 2-5 times, and occasionally, more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. Another factor to consider is that our lifestyle has changed so much if compared to decades ago. The kids don’t spend their free time playing outside. It’s now all inside: videogames, TV, movies, and the list goes on and on.
The American Lung Association (ALA) states that “poor indoor air quality can cause or contribute to the development of infections, lung cancer, and chronic lung diseases such as asthma. In addition, it can cause headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea and fatigue. People who already have lung disease are at greater risk.” Furthermore, on a recent study, EPA revealed that Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors.
Consequently, having a great indoor air quality is essential, especially if you live in a newer home as they tend to be so airtight making almost impossible for pollutants to escape. So, what can we do to improve the indoor air quality of our homes?
Check your HVAC system. Make sure you replace your air filter on a regular basis and your air ducts are also cleaned every few years or immediately after a major renovation involving construction debris. Don’t wait until your white air vent or return turn into black to call a cleaning company. For a cleaner, healthier air, make sure your HVAC has an ultraviolet light installed. If you don’t have one, consider asking an HVAC contractor to install a UV light in your heating and cooling system. The UV light will help purify the air inside your home by breaking down organic materials, such as mold spores, allergens and bacteria, and changing the structure of certain micro-organisms so that they can no longer reproduce. Keep in mind that UV lights will not filter any non-organic particles. Therefore, it’s important for you to have your ducts and returns cleaned every so often and your filters replaced regularly.
Adopt a smoke free policy in your home. Did you know that cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals? If you smoke, your addiction can give you cancer, breathing problems, heart attacks, and stroke. Secondhand smokers will be inclined to develop ear and respiratory infections, asthma, cancer, and children may suffer sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Protect your health and the health of your loved ones by prohibiting the use of tobacco and any other smoking substances inside your home.
Clean up your home regularly. Life gets busy but you must make some time out of your schedule to clean up your home on a weekly basis, by mopping, sweeping, vacuuming, and dusting off all the dirty that doesn’t belong to your home. Weather allowing, open up your windows for few hours to bring some fresh air into your home.
Use only green cleaning products in your home. It feels great when you walk into a place and it smells clean, doesn’t it? But do you really know what chemicals are inside your cleaning product? By adopting a green cleaning product policy in your home you will eliminate a massive amount of chemicals entering in your home. Instead of buying a ready-made cleaner at your grocery store, make your own mixing water, white vinegar and essential oils (for scent).
Decorate with specific houseplants that filter out some of the chemicals you bring home. Besides being pretty, aloe vera, snake plant, golden photos, chrysanthemum, gerbera, and azalea are great living air purifiers.
VK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries. Ms. Vollf is an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter, with in‐depth knowledge of all aspects of Sustainability – Social, Environmental and Economic. Connect with Andrea on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.