How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality (VZ 135)

Your home and office are typically two places you spend most of your time.  Poor indoor air quality can have negative effects on your health and productivity.

Check out episode 135 of our podcast to hear us discuss ways you can improve the air that you breathe or read on for a quick summary of what we discuss!

 

First, What Do we Mean by “Indoor Air Quality”?

The EPA defines ” indoor air quality” as the air within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.

 

woman staring out window

 

Why Is Indoor Air Quality Important?

When we think of  “pollution” we tend to think of the quality of the air outdoors but indoor air pollution is also a thing. A REALLY important thing since we spend a lot of time indoors too.

If you suffer from allergies, indoor  indoor pollutants can make you just as miserable as anything outside. Additionally, your allergies can get worse in the winter because most people tend to keep houses closed up to keep the heat in.

Because we spend so much of our time indoors, it’s really important that we are exposing our lungs to clean air.

 

What are some of the Effects of Poor Air Quality?

Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.

Some immediate short-term effects can be:
• Eye, nose, throat irritation
• Headaches
• Dizziness
• Fatigue

 

Unfortunately prolonged exposure to sub-par air quality make take years to show up but can include:

• Respiratory diseases
• Heart disease
• Cancer

 

What are Some Factors That Can Affect Indoor Pollutants?

Some factors that increase effects of indoor pollutants can be:

  • Inadequate ventilation

An environment that doesn’t allow enough outdoor air in to dilute emissions from indoor sources can have a negative impact on air quality.  An adequate ventilation system will allow indoor air pollutants to be carried out of the home.

 

  • High Indoor Humidity Levels

According to HVAC.com, the ideal relative humidity range for indoor spaces is between 30 to 50 percent.

When the indoor humidity reaches higher than 50%, mold and mildew can start to develop which reduces air quality.  Breathing in mold and mildew especially over extended periods of time can cause severe illness.

Conversely, if the indoor air is too dry, asthma and allergy issues can be triggered.  Additionally, viruses are able to spread more rapidly in a dry environment.

 

  • Common Indoor Pollutants

    • Dust Mites

Dust mites are tiny bugs that are too small to see. They feed on human skin flakes.

Dust mites can often  be found in:

• Mattresses, pillows, bed linens

• Carpets

• Upholstered furniture

• Clothes

• Stuffed toys

• Fabric and fabric-covered items

 

Body parts and droppings from dust mites can trigger asthma in individuals with allergies to dust mites. Exposure to dust mites can cause asthma in children who have not previously exhibited asthma symptoms.

 

Here are some steps you can take to help reduce dust mites:

• Wash bedding in hot water once a week. Dry completely.

• Use dust proof covers on pillows and mattresses.

• Vacuum carpets and furniture every week (use a vacuum with a HEPA filter)

• Choose stuffed toys that you can wash in hot water. Dry completely before your child plays with the toy

• Dust often with a damp cloth.

 

    • Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is an odorless gas that can irritate your eyes, nose and throat and cause shortness of breath. It can come from appliances inside your home that burn fuels such as gas, kerosene and wood.

Here are some steps to help reduce nitrogen dioxide:

• If you use fuel-burning appliances, make sure they are vented to the outside

• use the exhaust fan when you cook

• Never use the stove to keep you warm or heat your house

If you use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters:

      • Use the proper fuel and keep the heater adjusted the right way
      •  Open a window slightly or use an exhaust fan when you are using the heater

 

    • Products that spray (aerosol or pump)

      •  Things like cleaners, air fresheners, cooking spray, personal products, etc
      • Even if they are natural cleaners, the spray particles can linger suspended in the air for hours or even days

 

    •  Chlorine-based dishwasher detergent

Studies have shown that hot dishwasher water can turn a detergent’s chlorine into a gas that’s released during operation. We use Seventh Generation dishwasher packs, which do not contain chlorine.


 

    • Perfumes, colognes, and other scented products

These often contain unhealthy volatile organic compounds and toxic additives like phthalates

 

    • Chemicals from dry cleaning

If you need to have something dry cleaned, remove all traces of dry cleaning chemicals by airing garments out before bringing them inside.

 

    • Mold/mold spores

When exposed to excess moisture, mold spores develop into mold. Molds emit allergens and in some cases, mycotoxins (toxic substances).

To prevent, don’t let the humidity in your home get too high (use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity if necessary). If you do find mold growing, make sure you take adequate steps to remove it

 

    •  Secondhand Smoke

Not a lot of explanation needed on this one! It’s been proven that secondhand smoke can be even MORE dangerous than firsthand smoke!

If you’re a smoker, do your family a favor and take it outside!

 

Final Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Some final tips to help you improve the air that you breathe.

  • Use a HEPA Vacuum

When you dust, use a HEPA vacuum or a damp cloth to collect and trap dust and the pollution it contains. Avoid dusters and techniques that simply stir dust back into your home’s atmosphere.

We use a Shark vacuum which we’ve been extremely happy with!  With 5 pets, the generous attachments have helped with all of our cleaning needs!


 

  • Have Indoor Plants

Indoor plants can help improve the quality of your indoor air.

Here are a few plants that are recommended:

    • Boston Fern
    • Lady Palm
    • Bamboo Palm
    • Rubber Plant
    • English Ivy
    • Vicus
    • Peace Lily
    • Ficus

 

  • Air Out Your House

Whenever possible, open your windows to let your house “breathe”. Yes, some outdoor allergens might have access to your home BUT, letting out the “bad” air has far greater benefits!

Even opening your windows for a short period of time can have HUGE benefits!

 

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Vegetarian Zen Podcast! If you find value in our podcast and listen on iTunes, please consider leaving us a rating and review.

 

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Here’s what we mention in this episode:

 

Resources Used for this Episode

 

Recipe of the Week

 

Quotes of the Week

Anyone’s life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit.

— Lillie Langtry

Thanks for listening!

Peace and Veggies,
Vickie and Larissa