Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be five times as polluted as outdoor air? That’s a sobering statistic, especially when you consider that most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, whether at home, work or school.
Indoor air pollution has become a greater concern in recent years due to the construction of more energy-efficient homes, as they are designed to be relatively airtight, which means that pollutants can accumulate and remain stagnant inside.
Beyond negative health effects, indoor air pollution is thought to be responsible for 4.3 million deaths each year, as noted by the World Health Organization (WHO).1
While this is not an exhaustive list, sources of indoor air pollution include:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are dangerous, potentially carcinogenic gases that lurk in many products, such as chlorine bleach, detergents, aerosol sprays, air fresheners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, etc. According to the EPA, concentrations of many VOCs are up to ten times higher inside than outdoors.
- Commercial cleaning products of all types, especially those containing ammonia. As noted by the EPA, the average household contains a minimum of 62 toxic chemicals, most from items people regularly purchase, like potentially harmful household cleaning products.
- Petroleum-based laundry products, including dryer sheets, fabric softeners and laundry detergents, many of which release potentially carcinogenic VOCs such as chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. A study conducted at the University of Washington revealed that many top-selling laundry products emit a plethora of dangerous chemicals, none which were listed on the product labels.2
- Perfume and other products containing synthetic fragrances, which are a major source of phthalates. A family of industrial chemicals, phthalates can cause headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation and other respiratory and/or neurotoxic symptoms, as well as damaging the liver, kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular and reproductive systems.3
- Commercial air fresheners, including plug-in types, sprays and scented candles, many of which contain unhealthy chemicals including formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, aerosol propellants and acetaldehyde—a likely human carcinogen.
- Radon, a noxious gas which is found in home foundations and building materials. The EPA has concluded that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer.
- Tobacco smoke, which contains at least 70 proven carcinogens, as well as around 7,000 other hazardous chemicals.4 Then we have secondhand smoke, especially harmful to children and pets, which causes over 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.5
- Mold and mildew, which the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has linked to upper respiratory problems in otherwise healthy people, increased asthma symptoms and higher risk of pneumonia in susceptible individuals.6
While this partial list of indoor air pollutants may seem daunting, there is a bright side here. We obviously can’t escape outdoor air pollution, but we can exert consider control within our homes when it comes to indoor toxins. While there are many ways to improve the air quality in your home, one of the most effective is to use an indoor air purifier.
How do air purifiers work?
An air purifier is a device that removes a wide range of contaminants in your home by filtering and cleaning the air, thus helping to reduce the risk of health issues caused by indoor air pollutants, many of which can trigger respiratory infections, neurological problems, and aggravate symptoms in asthma sufferers.
How do you know which air purifier to choose?
The most demonstrably effective air purifiers are HEPA Certified. HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air,” which means devices using this technology are especially efficient at removing tiny particles from dust, mold, pollen, bacteria and viruses from the air, many as small as 0.3 microns. For reference, the smallest thing the human eye can see is 25 microns, and a strand of hair is between 17 and 180 microns in diameter.7
Certified HEPA filters have been shown to remove an astonishing 99.97 percent of pollution particles from the air,8 and that’s not all. While air filters only remove particles, HEPA air purifiers can sanitize them as well.
How can you get the most from your HEPA Certified air purifier?
Even the best air purifiers must be well maintained, which means being vigilant about changing filters. As you can imagine, a dirty or expired HEPA filter will be far less effective at protecting you and your family from unhealthy toxins, so check the manufacturer’s recommendation on filter replacement. Generally, these should be switched every 60 to 90 days.
Again, we may not be able to control outdoor air pollution, but we do have the ability to create a safer indoor environment for ourselves and our families by being proactive in keeping the air as free of dangerous pollutants as possible. Doing so is a great example of wellness in action. Here’s to a safe and healthy home!