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High air pollution inside homes triggers alarms

People feel more comfortable breathing in the air inside their homes than outside.

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High air pollution inside homes triggers alarms

People feel more comfortable breathing in the air inside their homes than outside. However, it is not always safer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the average home is between two and five times polluted than the street.

The EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), estimates that 72% human exposure to chemicals is indoors.

This is in addition to the fact that we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors and 70% at home. This means that approximately half the air reaching our lungs comes from our bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. There is no pollution monitoring system for this area, but it can be very toxic.

There are two facts you should be aware of: the average home has more formaldehyde than benzene, which are both carcinogens. The outside air also contains higher levels of CO2. High concentrations of the latter can lead to fatigue and headaches.

There are five main sources for pollution inside our homes: pollutant that comes from the outside; pollutants that are emitted directly by furniture and other objects; the issuance walls, floors, and other structural elements; emissions that are related to activities we do within the house and products we use for different tasks; and finally, the pollution that is caused by the presence of humans, animals, and plants.

There are many sources of pollution in our homes, but we also have elements that can help reduce or eliminate harmful species. You can have plants, paints or even an air purifier. These are all designed to remove specific pollutants. We can also dilute the air by opening the windows.

Many of the same pollutants found in outdoor air can also be found in indoor air: NO2 and NO, which are pollutants emitted from diesel vehicles, as well as particles (dust and particles of biological origin, such the ones responsible for the contagion of Covid-19). Ozone (O3, which can be found in the upper atmosphere's ozone layer or in high-polluted cities in lower atmosphere), peroxides, which are compounds such as H2O2 which are extremely oxidizing and therefore harmful to our health, etc.

These pollutants include formaldehyde (a very irritating compound), terpenoid chemicals (aromatic, and volatile organic compounds) that are formed from the union of hydrocarbon units and 5 carbon atoms. They are commonly found in cleaning products, air fresheners and other household cleaners. ), CO2, CO, etc. They can be found in much higher levels than outside.

This table lists the health effects of some pollutants and their average concentrations in the air outside and inside our homes. Source: Author

What can we do to reduce our exposure to these pollutant?

If the place is very polluted, you can improve its ventilation. This means that we should open all windows as much as possible. We will make sure that any pollutants inside the house will be diluted with the outside air. We can install air purifiers, or any other filter in our air conditioning systems if this is the case. Be aware that not all air purifiers will be efficient and beneficial for your health.

It is important to consider that small rooms can be associated with higher levels of pollutants when designing houses. It is important that garages are not connected to areas where you spend a lot. Avoid floor materials that could be polluting, such as ceramic floors, which emit less pollutants into the indoor environment than wooden floors. Talking to architects about your concerns will be helpful. Each day, there are more professionals who are trained in this field.

Additionally, we should avoid using combustion-based appliances to heat or cook the house. If you do have to use them, ensure that there is sufficient ventilation and that the extractor and chimney flues work correctly.

We choose carefully the products that we use for our personal hygiene and home cleaning. We must remember that aromas are only used to mask other odours and all products can be sources of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These compounds are more common indoors than outdoors, and although they are not toxic, they can cause significant health problems when they become part of indoor air.

We should also be careful not to use air fresheners as they can contain VOCs.

It is also not recommended to smoke indoors, or light objects such as candles, incense sticks, and so on. They can introduce contaminants into the air if they are not needed.

Indoor pollutants can be reduced by the presence of plants. Examples include Zamioculcas, Zamioculcas, and dracaena Golden Coast'.

The HEPA filter in vacuum cleaners has been shown to reduce dust particles and sweeping can increase suspended dust.

It is important to ventilate your home after it has been moved, remodeled, or painted. The levels of most pollutants related to home remodeling and painting decrease with time and ventilation.

Ecological paints do not necessarily emit lower levels of pollutants. These paints emit fewer regulated pollutants (as defined in the legislation), but they still emit a lot of unregulated pollutants.

Are you still unsure? These cases are usually handled by common sense. Have you ever thought that cooking with gas could be more harmful for your health from the perspective of the air you inhale than using an electric stove? Yes!

This article was published in "The Conversation".

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