Ensuring Indoor Air Quality

What is in the air we breath? Assuming we still inhale fresh air, what we breath is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases, like carbon dioxide, neon, and hydrogen.

Living in a city, or a developing one at least, leaves us with a host of other particles circulating in the air, like dust, pollen, smoke, soot, and other pollutants from car exhaust and power plants. All of which are naturally picked up when the wind blows.

With current work from home measures leaving us to spend more time at home, many are becoming more conscious of the measures they can take to further ensure the safety and the quality of air that they’re breathing.

Many have taken up the practice of introducing indoor plants such as aloe vera, snake plant, and spider plant, to name a few, that are believed to have air-cleaning properties. Apart from their aesthetic appeal and proposed mental health benefits, some are also thought to aid in reducing the level of number of toxins circulating in our rooms, purifying the air, improving sleep quality, and reducing stress.

However, for those who start experiencing allergic reactions, whether dermal or respiratory, it might be a good idea to keep in-door plants outside, according to research from the Harvard Medical School. For those sheltering in place, presence of indoor plants may actually lead to more problems than the benefits they purport, given that they have a tendency to collect and foster the growth of mold, and are still allergy triggers for a lot of people.

So what are more ‘natural’ ways to keep our air clean, then? 

For one, if it is available to you, leave your windows open for at least an hour every day, or longer if you can. Stale indoor air that usually enters through your air conditioning systems can be a source of respiratory and allergy triggers. Allowing air to circulate can lower the prevalence of mold spores, dust mites, or pet dander. 

Opening windows lowers the concentration of indoor air toxins coming from ingredients in household cleaners such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and perfume in air fresheners, solvents, pesticides, disinfectants, glue, cleansers, tobacco smoke, carbon dioxide, off-gas emissions from new furniture, new carpets, or new paint.

Most of these sources are also odorless, thus it is difficult to immediately be alerted, and even more difficult to pinpoint the source. It is only once symptoms are observed that the alarm is sounded as to the possible causes.

Keeping our immediate environment clean simply by

  • reducing the amount of dust via vacuuming the floor
  • regularly cleaning bedding and drapes, and other areas that tend to attract allergens
  • removing clutter in the home

are already big steps towards improving the air quality in one’s home. 

For those using air conditioners, regularly cleaning or changing the filters makes sure that the outdoor irritants that make their way into your home are trapped.

If you wish to take it a step further, investing in an air purifier may be a good idea, especially if you’re unable to identify the source of the allergy trigger, or have identified it but are unable to remove the source, like the family pet. While these are helpful in lessening the irritants that may be causing allergic reactions, complete removal is hard to guarantee.

Dehumidifiers would be a good deterrent against the proliferation and spread of mold growth, especially in dark and damp areas, like the basement and bathrooms, but again, do not promise complete removal of these toxins.

In our quest to keep the area that we occupy clean from the very toxins that are produced by the everyday mechanisms that turn the cogs of our lives, it is quite easy to get lost and swept away by strong messages from external sources about what is really necessary to keep the air we breathe clean. But let us remember our bodies are absolutely capable of handling threats to our system, and need very basic things: sunlight, sleep, good nutrition, and movement.

Before we surrender our autonomy to all these products being peddled as temporary solutions to our woes, let's take a moment to marvel at the mechanism already at our disposal. All we have to do is take care of it, and it will be well equipped to handle the self-imposed threats of modern living that we subject it to. 

Sources:

https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2491/10-interesting-things-about-air/#:~:text=Air%20is%20mostly%20gas&text=It's%20a%20mixture%20of%20different,dioxide%2C%20neon%2C%20and%20hydrogen 

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/oct2019/eco-friendly-environment

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/easy-ways-you-can-improve-indoor-air-quality

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/iaq_intro.html

https://www.epa.gov/childcare/resources-about-indoor-air-quality-child-care-providers



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