A new research study shows that the major factors causing indoor air pollution include cigarette and marijuana smoke, toxic cleaning products, frying food, and lighting candles.
Identifying the Main Factors in Indoor Air Pollution
A team of researchers at San Diego State University sought to understand what behaviors lead to an increase in airborne particle densities inside American homes. Nearly 300 families were include in the study, each with at least one child aged 14 or younger and one or more smokers.
Their homes were equipped with air particle monitors, one in a main living area and another in the child’s bedroom. The monitors ran continuously for three months. The findings, while not altogether alarming, do reveal some interesting correlations.
“Families that reported smoking cigarettes indoors had an average particle level almost double that of non-indoor-smoking families. These particles included nicotine and combustion byproducts, both linked to health issues especially for children,” explains Alexandru Micu of ZME Science. “Surprisingly enough, marijuana smoking contributed to in-home air pollution about as much as tobacco smoking. Burning candles or incense, frying food in oil, and spraying cleaning products also led to an increase in the number of fine particles.”
It should be noted that this was the first major study to identify marijuana as a significant source of in-home air pollution.
How to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality
While you may not have a smoker in your household, there’s still a good chance that one or more of the other factors identified in this study are impacting your home’s air quality.
Here are some practical steps you can take to make your air healthier to breathe:
1. Improve Ventilation
Did you know that most HVAC systems don’t mechanically introduce fresh air into the home? In other words, it’s up to you to improve ventilation as much as possible.
“Opening windows and doors, operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate,” the EPA suggests. “Local bathroom or kitchen fans that exhaust outdoors remove contaminants directly from the room where the fan is located and also increase the outdoor air ventilation rate.”
2. Change Air Filters Regularly
When was the last time you replaced the air filters in your air conditioners? It’s recommended that you do so every one to three months in order to maintain good air quality and remove particles that have been trapped in the filter. If you have an air purifier in your home, it’s also important to remember to change these filters. It’s relatively inexpensive, so don’t forget.
3. Keep Pets Outside
Everyone loves their family pet, but with shedding and dander, your dog or cat could actually be one of the primary contributors to your home’s poor air quality.
The best strategy is to keep pets outside. If you have a screened porch, this is a great compromise. If that’s not an option, remember to regularly bathe and brush your pet. Feeding them high quality food that’s rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is also helpful, as these nutrients support healthy skin.
4. Clean Regularly
One of the best things you can do is commit to regularly cleaning your home. This means vacuuming carpet, sweeping floors, dusting surfaces, and wiping down kitchen and bathroom countertops. This prevents particles from becoming airborne and diminishes the possibility of breathing in harmful toxins. (Just make sure you use or make natural cleaning products.)
5. Maintain Proper Humidity Levels
Your home’s humidity level plays a significant role in air quality. Mold and dust mites thrive in high-moisture environments. By keeping indoor humidity in the 30 to 50 percent range, you can prevent allergens from spreading. If you live in a naturally humid area – or have rooms with poor ventilation – a dehumidifier helps.
What You Can’t See
The dust, dirt, and grime that you can see in your home isn’t the most dangerous. You eventually get around to wiping down surfaces and vacuuming floors. It’s the invisible particles – the tiny ones between 0.5 and 0.25 micrometers in size – that are most dangerous. They’re small enough to find their way into the deepest parts of your lungs and can cause a number of dangerous and uncomfortable cardiovascular issues.
Let this new research study serve as a wake-up call. You need to be smart about air quality and do what you can to keep your family healthy and safe.