When we think of air pollution, we tend to think of outdoor air, without giving the air inside our homes a second thought. Yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air quality inside our homes can often be two to five times worse than outdoors. The same study reports that adults in developed countries can spend around 90% of their time indoors. With indoor air quality contributing to many serious health issues, it really is an issue deserving more attention.
As today is Clean Air Day, a project that aims to clean up the air on the longest day of the year, I’ve teamed up with ENGIE Home Energy, partners of Clean Air Day, to share six tips on how to improve the air quality in your home:
1. Consider Your Cleaning Products
There are many reports of the negative impacts of conventional cleaning products on your health.
Instead of using harsh cleaning products, consider switching to more environmentally friendly brands. Ethical Consumer has a great guide to cleaning product brands that’s incredibly useful.
Alternatively, try making your own natural cleaning products. As someone who has written a whole book on the subject, I promise it’s not as tricky or as time-consuming as it sounds. If you have 5 seconds to add one ingredient to another and then give it a shake then you can definitely make your own cleaning products! The great thing is that many of the products use ingredients from your food cupboard – from herbs, citrus fruits, salt, bicarbonate of soda and other food-based ingredients that will do wonders for your indoor air quality.
If making your own cleaning products, or using more environmentally friendly brands isn’t your thing then there are a few things you can do to improve the air quality in your home. Avoid using aerosol based products and making sure you open a window when using cleaning products can help.
2. Consider Your Candle Habit
Candles, and in particular, scented candles are a surprising cause of indoor air pollution.
Standard candles are made from paraffin wax – a petroleum by-product that is made when crude oil is refined into petrol, which affects your indoor air quality when you burn them. And that’s before we’ve even covered the artificial fragrances contained in candles, which can hide a cocktail of particularly undesirable chemicals.
3. Service Your Boiler
Getting your boiler serviced by a professional at least once per year is a wise move in improving the air quality in your home. Without regular servicing, highly poisonous carbon monoxide gas can leak from faulty boilers, which can be fatal.
As carbon monoxide is odourless, tasteless and colourless it’s best to also install a carbon monoxide alarm too. The most effective position for your carbon monoxide alarm is around head height on the wall or bookcase – never on the ceiling, where it’s too high to be effective in the event of a leak.
4. Consider Switching Your Energy Tariff
Admittedly, this is an action that you can take inside the home to improve air quality outside, but it is still an important one. Choosing an energy supplier, such as ENGIE, who offers renewable energy tariffs for your home can significantly reduce the pollution caused by fossil fuel based power stations.
ENGIE source 100% of the electricity they supply from wind power generated from their network of UK wind farms. Whilst this sounds like it might come at a cost to you, ENGIE says that customers can save up to £200 compared to their old suppliers.
Whilst the name might be new to you, ENGIE have been around for quite some time, particularly in Europe. Since 2014, ENGIE has sought to reduce future exploration in fossil fuels and has instead invested heavily in renewable energies and energy efficiency services. ENGIE sustainably heat the 3,000 homes and buildings in London’s Olympic Park and power big businesses across five continents.
5. Consider Your Decorating Materials
Moving back indoors, paint is one of those surprising elements that is a considerable contributor to indoor air quality.
Paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – chemical gases that are emitted from certain solids and liquids and can cause short and long-term health problems.
Whilst the highest concentrations of VOCs from painting a room occur during and immediately after painting, a freshly painted room can continue to emit VOCs long after the paint has dried on your walls. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency say that a mere 50 percent of VOCs contained within paint are released within the first year of application.
Thankfully, it’s an easy one to avoid – just switch to low VOC paint.
Other sources of VOCs include furniture and synthetic carpets and rugs, etc, so choosing natural products, such as pure wool and pure wood products are healthier alternatives that will help improve indoor air quality.
6. Get Growing
Plants are an easy and cost-effective way to improve indoor air quality. Don’t believe me? A famous NASA study found that several common houseplants may remove carcinogenic air-borne chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Later research indicated that micro-organisms in the soil of houseplants can also help purify the air.
Although subsequent research has been inconclusive, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few houseplants in your home. Check out here for some air purifying recommendations.