It is easy to trick ourselves into thinking that indoor air is a clean respite from the outdoor air pollution those of us experience living in cities. Inside our own homes, we are clear of car fumes, heating and cooling exhaust, smoke stacks, cigarette smoke, and much more. In the two minutes you are probably reading this blog post (presumably you are also indoors), it is likely that you will inhale and exhale around 15 litres of air. Unless there are strong smells in the air, you are not likely to think that there is any problem with the air you are breathing. Avoiding fumes is a great start, however smells alone can be deceiving. While a lot of us spend energy and care ensuring we are eating good food, not drinking contaminated water, exercising, and keeping generally healthy, we ignore the fact that the air we breathe contributes drastically to our overall health.
We spend an average of 90% of our time indoors, and 65% of that is inside our own homes. Living in a home with high indoor air pollution levels can be more dangerous than living in a highly polluted city! Indoor air pollutants may be significantly higher than outdoor levels according to many CSIRO reports. Children, the elderly, and those who are health sensitive are even more susceptible to air pollution than healthy adults. The most common form of indoor air pollutants are VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), which are gases emitted from paints, sprays, cleaning products, building materials, printers and more. Most VOCs cause serious health problems, and can’t be detected by smell.
Indoor air pollution isn’t always immediately apparent. While there are tell-tale signs such as headaches, irritated eyes, nose and throat, dizziness and fatigue – as you might experience walking into a freshly painted room – more serious and permanent effects such as respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer take time to develop.
Odourless and otherwise, the pollutants inside our home can be up to ten times worse than the outside air. This is partly due to the focus on making our homes energy efficient and secure from outdoor leaks and drafts. It is difficult for our immune systems to keep up with the abundance of circulating particles, germs, and gases that are kept inside our tightly secured homes. This is evident in the increasing occurrence of allergies, asthma and other breathing disorders.
The most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to remove the source of the pollution. Where this is not possible, there are other things you can do to limit the effects, such as ventilate, create barriers between pollutants and your living spaces, and using plants and air filtration systems to help remove the particles, gases, spores and germs found in your home.