Looking outside from the windows of your home, the outdoors can look intimidatingly scary: automobiles on the road releasing combustion gasses, a factory somewhere out there belching huge fumes, people smoking in the alley while your neighbor sprays pesticide in his garden… Then you say to yourself: inside your home is where you are safe.
But wait a second. Are you aware that pollution inside your home is also possible? That the pollution indoors may take a form that is subtle but nonetheless harmful and toxic like outdoors?
According to studies that have been backed up by the World Health Organization, indoor air pollution is pervasive – much more than we know. And the big problem goes with the fact that houses, offices and buildings are enclosed, thus, you can readily take in the pollution that lurks. Unlike the outdoors where a big space can disperse the polluted air, the indoor can heavily trap any pollution. Think of a glass of oil dropped in the ocean, the oil becomes barely noticeable as compared to the same quantity of oil dropped in a bathtub. The most common culprits to indoor pollution include building leaks, burners, stoves, and commercially bought products such as paints, mothballs, cleaning solvents, and fragrances.
So how do we avoid indoor pollution, and what alternative ways can we turn to if synthetic cleaners and perfumes are to be avoided? Here are some useful practices you can use:
Open your windows and doors several times a week (winter seasons exempted). Let the heavy air from inside move out, replaced by the fresh air from the outside. You can use the fans to help the air circulate. This simple way of letting out the accumulated pollution indoors can surely make staying in your homes more comfortable and agreeable. In addition, you can also install exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchen, and spaces where there are high levels of moisture. Moisture is especially problematic as it invites the growth of molds and mildews.
2. Fix Leaks
Check your roof, building foundations, and basement at least once a year to catch for leaks and moisture problems. Foundation leaks are especially problematic because it can release radon from the soil. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is considered as a health hazard due to its radioactivity. In the USA alone, radon- induced lung cancer reaches a total of 21, 000 deaths per year. Radon exposures in homes and buildings may come from certain subsurface rock formation or from granite countertops. Buildings that are airtight, insufficiently ventilated and have foundation leaks have a higher percentage of radon. Radon is definitely a gas you would like to avoid if you want a comfortable dwelling place. So check the radon levels in your house, it is easy and inexpensive.
3. Use All-Natural Insecticides
As we try to get rid of the nasty odors and insects in our home, we unconsciously resort to synthetic aerosols and cleaning agents that have been heavily advertised in the market. The ads in the television, magazines, and posters may market synthetic cleaners as a “wonder item” for being able to remove smells and kill harmful organisms; however what these adverts fail to inform us is that these synthetic cleaners also contain harmful chemicals that are not only toxic to the target microorganisms– but also to humans as well.
Essential oils are a great alternative to these synthetic cleaning agents. Studies have shown that lemon essential oil, in particular, has potent antiseptic and disinfectant properties that are comparable at par to commercial cleaning agents, without of course the risk of toxicity. Just add 1-2 drops of essential oil in a bowl of water and use the water as a disinfectant, or blend 3-5 drops of oil to 1 oz. water in a spray bottle and mist to remove odors.
4. Trash Chemical Cleaners, Use Natural Solutions
Household cleaning products that are readily bought in grocery stores usually contains synthetic chemicals that not only offer mighty killing actions to molds and mildews—they also offer an added health risk to humans. If additional pollution is the last thing you need, you can trash the chemical cleaners and use natural solutions instead.
There are many inexpensive, easy to use alternatives that can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Here are some.
Lemon – is one of the strongest food-acids; effective against most household bacteria.
Borax – (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, and cleanses wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, and scours.
Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets, and rugs.
Citrus Solvent – cleans paintbrushes, oil, grease, other stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.)
White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
5. Clean Air Conditioners and Dehumidifiers Regularly
Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can trap and breed microorganisms that are potentially dangerous to the body. Cleaning them regularly can definitely improve the quality of air circulating inside.
6. Diffuse Essential Oils
Essential oils are concentrated hydrophilic liquids containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. When diffused inside close spaces, essential oils can act in two ways: the antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties of these oils can effectively kill microbes while their pleasant aroma can remove unwanted odors. In the past, essential oils from plants were traditionally used as a remedy for different illnesses. Today, some people may be hesitant to accept whether these oils can help cure cancer or AIDS, but what most people will agree is that the pleasant aroma of these oils can definitely help in creating a sense of relaxation and calm.
Diffusing Lavender essential oil can evoke relaxation while Citrusy oils like lemon and lime are good for stimulation. Sage, on the other hand, can help purify and remove unwanted energies, thereby allowing higher vibrations inside your home.
7. Forget Mothballs
While moths are unwelcome in our closets, using mothballs to clear moths can be a big problem in terms of health and in keeping quality indoor air. The chemical in mothballs known as naphthalene is thought to predispose animals and humans to respiratory tract lesions and tumors.
8. Impose Smoking Ban Indoors
The smoke from cigarette decreases the level of comfort in your home not only because it makes the air that surrounds stinky, but also because it can predispose people to a spectrum of health problems. In addition, cigarette smoke trapped indoors has a higher disease-causing rate as compared outdoors due to the confined, unventilated space.
So, the next time someone tries to smoke inside your house, be firm on your smoking ban!
9. Use Low VOC Paints
Even after a few months after application, paints continue to release trace amounts of gasses. These gasses are called VOCs or volatile organic compounds that may contain highly toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde or acetaldehyde.
It is better to use paints, varnishes, waxes and other chemicals that have “Low-VOC” indoors. Also open windows and use exhaust fans to remove gasses when you paint, and do not store open paint containers indoors.
10. Reduce Carpeting
Carpets do look nice in our homes, but it doesn’t feel good knowing that carpets can trap and breed unhealthy particles – including chemicals, dust mites, pet dander, dirt, and fungi – that can be made worse by vacuuming, which can make them airborne.
If you really love the carpets, make sure you use a HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) vacuum cleaner to ensure better air quality.