Building an energy-efficient or green home helps achieve several important goals, such as energy conservation and protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions. It also helps reduce our energy bills and save money. Another equally important goal of greening our home is to create a healthy indoor environment for the health and comfort of our family.
A number of studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including respiratory as well as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Indoor air pollution is a common problem for every home, regardless of location. Many homeowners do not know that the pollution in their homes can be worse than of outdoors two to five times.
Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air quality is one of the five major environmental risks to public health. About 2 million people die each year from diseases associated with indoor air pollution, mainly from the use of solid fuels.
Indoor air pollution and allergens can affect our health, causing eye inflammation and runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. The worst cases of indoor pollution are chronic diseases such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and lung cancer.
Common indoor air pollutants include:
Dust is the most common indoor pollutant that can cause respiratory allergies.
Biological pollutants such as pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, and dust mites that can cause diseases like hay fever or induce asthma in adults and children.
Chemical pollutants include household cleaners, paints, and solvents. These products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause mild syndromes, such as headaches, skin and throat irritation, when people are regularly exposed to them.
Volatile organic gases are emitted by building and remodeling materials, such as paint, lacquer, glue, and plywood. Toxic volatile organic compounds can be released by building materials for several years after installation.
Carpets and upholstery that use formaldehyde as a permanent adhesive. The World Health Organization classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
Synthetic fragrances, perfumes, and deodorants. It has been found that some of the volatile and semi-volatile chemicals used are toxic and can cause skin irritation, an allergic reaction, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and reproductive disorders.
Radon gas coming from a kitchen countertop, attic or basement. According to the US National Cancer Institute, radon is America’s second leading cause of lung cancer.
Combustion pollutants. These are gases or particles that are emitted by non-ventilated or poorly ventilated fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace, heater, wood or gas stove, water heater, and dryer. Some of the hazardous gases that can be produced include nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, as well as other chemical fumes.
Tobacco smoke contributes to poor indoor air quality and causes asthma in primary school children.
Pet dander. Animal hairs and dried skins can also be a source of respiratory irritation.
How to improve indoor air quality?
You can manage the air quality in your home with a few simple steps. Let’s look at the possible steps for improving the indoor air quality:
- Indoor air quality can be improved by removing the source of air pollution. The main solution is switching from solid fuel (coal and biomass) to cleaner and more energy-efficient energy sources.
- Cleaning, vacuuming carpets and dusting surfaces regularly from a source of air pollution and allergens can significantly reduce the amount of dust and allergens in the air.
- Use high-efficiency filters for air ventilation and change them regularly. Regular filter replacement can significantly improve indoor air quality and your family’s health, especially if someone in your family has serious allergies.
- Control of exposure to indoor allergens and air humidity using air monitors. Excessive moisture in the air can cause the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus, in places such as basements and bathrooms.
- Cleaning indoor air in your home using an energy-efficient air purifier. Using an air purifier can help reduce indoor air pollution in enclosed spaces.
- Use an energy-efficient vacuum cleaner with high-efficiency filters. It has been shown that this significantly reduces interior particulate pollution and, therefore, the symptoms of asthma and allergies.
- Replace furniture made of toxin-releasing materials when refurbishing your home. Buy quality furniture from eco-friendly materials that will last you a long time and your family healthy.
- Invest in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems and household appliances, including vacuum cleaner, air purifier, and high-quality air filters. The proper HVAC system of your home with also help you save on energy bills.
The cheapest and simplest way to improve indoor air pollution is houseplants. Studies have identified the 12 most beneficial plants, especially in removing VOCs.
High-efficiency filters for air ventilation
Advanced technologies for air purification in your home are currently available, including high-performance filters for air purifiers.
HEPA air filters are the most efficient filters available and remove 99.97 percent of dust and particles as small as 0.3 microns. They can remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, some bacteria, and other common indoor allergens.
Activated carbon air filters can remove gases, fumes, and cigarette smoke missed out by HEPA filter.
Air ionizers create negative ions that change the polarity of airborne particles, causing them to magnetically attract together. Particles become heavier and settle on the ground or on walls instead of staying airborne. Air ionizer removes particles as small as 0.01 microns as well as neutralize chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, viruses, and bacteria.
Germicidal ultraviolet (UV) lamps can effectively destroy germs, viruses, mold, and bacteria. However, the UV lamps cannot remove most allergens and dust, chemical fumes, gases, or cigarette smoke.
Ozone generators are highly effective against odors, including cigarette smoke odors as well as certain chemicals and bacteria. However, some people are sensitive to ozone itself that causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat at high concentration.
Remember that indoor pollution is more manageable than outdoor air pollution. It is recommended that you invest in upgrading your existing home step by step. You can invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, and energy-saving appliances that will lower your energy bills for years to come.
If you plan to build a new home, you may want to invest in environmentally friendly materials and additional insulation that can trap pollutants and chemicals released by building materials, paint and other toxic materials.
Let us know what you think on this subject. Are you considering investing in your home to improve your indoor environment? Please leave your comment below.