A scientist's guide to life: How to protect yourself from indoor air pollution
It takes many forms, from the tiny particles that are emitted when we cook or clean, to the spores released by mold when it’s damp, and the chemicals that are embedded in our furniture.
Small particles that are inhaled can travel to the lungs and cause problems. Studies suggest that indoor air pollution is linked with an increased risk of certain respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis.
Open fires and older wood-burning stoves emit a mixture of gases and tiny particles. Burning wet wood is worse than dry, seasoned wood.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recommends burning wood that has a moisture content of less than 20 per cent, along with certain stoves that are less polluting.
Candles and incense can also impact air quality.
One study in Danish homes found that candles were the main source of indoor pollution.
Cleaning products and indoor fragrances produce various volatile organic compounds which can be suspended in the air or settle in dust and on surfaces.
Spray cleaning products close to the surface, then wipe with a dry cloth, then wipe again with a cloth that’s been dampened in water.
Fabrics and certain furnishings are treated with flame retardants, and formaldehyde can be found in some furniture, floorings, and building materials.
Although we can’t yet confidently identify the extent of any health effects that are caused, we need to establish set emission standards and a clear labeling system for these items.
Outdoor studies hint that plants can help provide a barrier against some forms of pollution, but the evidence from indoor studies is still lacking.
It is not yet knows if specific plants can reduce air pollutants in the home, but they certainly look good and are great for our wellbeing.
Help to prevent damp by cleaning away condensation and mold, and ventilating rooms as thoroughly as possible.
If your windows have trickle vents, keep them open.
"What is called genius is the abundance of life and health." - Thoreau
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