we typically think of poor outdoor air quality. However, did you know that indoor air is, on average, 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air? And sadly, because most of us living in the developed world spend so much of our time indoors, we are at a higher risk of developing health issues from the toxic air. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 30% of global diseases are a result of indoor air pollution¹.
While as individuals we may have limited control over the air quality in many places, we can make improvements in the indoor air quality of our own homes and offices. The following are a number of natural ways that you can improve the air quality where you live and work.
- Keep air purifying houseplants. Many types of plants are very good at filtering out pollutants in our homes, such as formaldehyde, xylene, benzene, trichloroethylene, and carbon monoxide. Some of the best plants for cleaning indoor air are Spider Plants, Peace Lilies, Snake Plants (“Mother-in-Law’s Tongue”), Elephant Ears, Weeping Figs, Rubber Plants, and Bamboo Palms².
- Open your windows. Opening your windows at least once a week for even an hour or two can replace stagnant and polluted indoor air with fresh air.
- Be sure to open your windows to ventilate a room if you must use any volatile chemicals, such as those found in paint strippers and paints. Better yet, look for low- or no-VOC products to avoid being exposed the toxic fumes from these products in the first places.
- Use natural products and non-toxic cleaners. The majority of the air fresheners, detergents, and cleaners on the market contain toxic substances, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), that can pollute indoor air. These chemicals not only pollute indoor air, they can be detrimental to human health and pets. Instead, choose products that have been made with natural substances, and do not produce harmful fumes. When seeking out natural products, resources such as the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and the United States Environmental Protection Agency Safer Choice page are great places to learn more.
- Use essential oils. Essential oils are potent plant extracts that can be used for many purposes in the home, including cleaning, and purifying and freshening indoor air. They also offer an eco-friendly, healthy, and often more effective alternative to many chemical and synthetic products.
- Using high quality essential oils in an essential oil diffuser will not only produce a nice scent throughout a room, you will also gain many health benefits from the complex natural compounds that the essential oils contain. You can also use essential oils to make your own homemade cleaning products and personal care products.
- For purposes of purity, safety, and to experience the most benefits, be sure to use only therapeutic grade essential oils from a reputable company.
- Test your home for radon. Radon is an invisible and odorless gas that seeps up from the soil and bedrock of the Earth, and can also offgas from some building materials such as granite countertops. Radon can cause lung cancer, so it is important to have your home tested for it, which is a simple and inexpensive test.
- Do not smoke indoors. The health risks associated with second-hand smoke are well known today. To protect the health of your loved ones and your pets, always smoke outside if you choose to smoke.
- Keep areas of your home dry to prevent mold and mildew from proliferating. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends an indoor humidity level of 30-60%³. If necessary, employ the use of a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity level of your home.
- Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner.
- Clean your heating and air conditioning filters, ducts, and vents regularly to reduce dust and other particulates from re-circulating throughout the indoor air in your home.
- If possible, use bathroom and kitchen exhausts to reduce the level of moisture and smoke that can travel throughout the air in your home.