In spite of rising concerns about the impact of air pollution on our health, many of us are blissfully unaware of the risk that exists in our own homes. HFG explains the dangers and rounds up some easy ways you can improve the air quality in your living space.
According to a report published in The Lancet medical journal, air pollution was responsible for around 9 million deaths in 2015. It has been linked to increasing the risk of major health threats, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) now warns that 30 towns and cities in the UK exceed safe limits for fine-particle air pollution.
For those of us who work and commute in towns and cities, exhaust fumes are an obvious culprit. Yet, WHO found that 85% of Brits were unaware of the risks of poor air quality in their homes, offices and other buildings, where we spend 90% of our time. In fact, recent tests commissioned by Sadiq Khan, shockingly revealed that air quality was often worse inside classrooms and nurseries than it was in the playgrounds.Indoor air pollution is the result of a cocktail of outdoor pollution (such as ozone and vehicle emissions) that we carry on our skin, clothes and hair, along with chemicals and toxins released by cleaning products, solvents, and burning products in the home. As well as increasing our risk of disease, airborne pollution accelerates skin damage and ageing, and can cause or worsen atopic skin conditions, including dermatitis and eczema. But, despite the scary statistics, there are easy habits we can adopt to improve the air quality in our homes.
1. Keep it clean
Simply dusting and vacuuming your home regularly can help remove allergens and pollenates from your surfaces and carpets. By washing your bedsheets once a week, you can help keep dust mites and dead skin cells at bay.2. Use organic cleaning products
Many brands of household detergents contain harsh chemicals, which elevate inflammatory markers associated with dermatitis and eczema. When combined with sunlight and nitrogen oxide, they can also produce a photochemical smog in the home. To reduce air toxicity, opt for natural and organic cleaning brands to minimise risk. If you are using a product containing harsh chemicals, make sure it is well diluted and rinse it away thoroughly, so that minimal residue is left behind.
3. Burn less
Although 48% of us admit to burning candles at home, doing so releases harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have been linked to cancers and can accelerate skin damage and ageing. Paraffin candles are thought to be the worst offenders, so if you can’t completely break the habit, opt for beeswax. Burn candles for a minimal amount of time and air the room by opening a window afterwards.
4. Ditch the perfumes
Half of us also admit to using air fresheners and plug-ins in our homes, yet doing so increases our exposure to carcinogens. Instead of opting for a highly chemical, perfumed air spray, choose a product containing essential oils to freshen rooms, such as Puressentiel Purifying Air Spray, £9.99/75ml, Boots.
5. Keep houseplants
Growing plants in your home is an easy and visually pleasing way to naturally cleanse the air. Some plants have more purifying power than others. For example, in a 1989 study conducted by NASA, Devil’s Ivy was shown to efficiently remove pollutants including benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and formaldehyde from the air. Place your plant near a bright window and water it once a week to keep it healthy.