Protect yourself from outside pollutants but also ensure the cleanliness of the air you breathe indoors

By Nadine Halili | Photo by CDC/Unsplash

If you’re lucky enough to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, you may have already tried out new hobbies and formed new routines to pass the time. While lifestyles have changed worldwide since the enforcement of lockdowns, many have also believed that the planet is “healing” with the drop in gas emissions while others still thought that they are inhaling less air pollution due to the fact that they are in self-quarantine in their homes. However, is the air indoors really safer than the air outside? 

In urbanized areas, studies have shown that people spend 90 percent of their days indoors and 70 percent in residential areas. This does reduce their exposure to outdoor pollutants, but the indoor air also carries potential health risks. It is important to note that this may vary widely due to differences in building structures, indoor surface materials, air handling systems, building operating conditions and surrounding environmental conditions. 

The air indoors contains volatile organic compounds from consumer products and building materials, and nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulate matter from activities such as cooking, wood burning and smoking. Aside from these, inadequate ventilation can trap allergens and pollutants inside. The risky part about indoor air is that you won’t be able to notice if you’re inhaling these harmful elements until you show symptoms like a dry throat, cough, shortness of breath, or an itchy or runny nose. Moreover, this could cause respiratory and heart diseases, lung cancer and premature deaths in the long run. Given that going outside isn’t a choice these days, here are some steps you can do to keep the air indoors a little healthier to breathe. 

The risky part about indoor air is that you won’t be able to notice if you’re inhaling these harmful elements until you show symptoms like a dry throat, cough, shortness of breath, or an itchy or runny nose

Clean the house regularly

Dust, pollen, and pet fur are potential allergens that could contribute to the circulation of harmful indoor air. Use a vacuum cleaner to catch these elements to avoid buildup. Make sure to dry out damp areas because dust, mold, and viruses breed in the heat and moisture. Control the humidity in your home by closing the door when you bathe and drying wet clothes outside. 

 

Open your windows

This is the cheapest and easiest way to improve the ventilation of your home. Studies have shown that fresh air and natural ventilation reduce the spread of viruses compared to its transmission in an enclosed space. Opening the windows as much as possible even while you sleep can help control the humidity levels of your home since it prevents condensation buildup. 

 

Have a smoke-free house

Cigarette smoke already poses many health risks to the smoker and the people around them such as cardiovascular and lung diseases. Burning incense sticks, candles, and other things for recreational use also releases carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. Harmful airborne particles from smoking also lasts up to five hours so it’s best to keep this out of your house and even better, to consider quitting if you do smoke. Equipment such as cooking stoves also emit carbon monoxide so it’s best to regularly check on these and keep them constantly maintained. Turn on a fan after you cook so you can drive out toxic fumes out the windows. 

Studies have shown that fresh air and natural ventilation reduce the spread of viruses compared to its transmission in an enclosed space. Opening the windows as much as possible even while you sleep can help control the humidity levels of your home since it prevents condensation buildup

Avoid volatile organic compounds 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted by many fabrics, glues and paints. These react to sunlight and chemicals in the air to form harmful elements that can damage the lungs if inhaled. Use non-toxic paint to reduce exposure to VOCs and make sure the paint you buy doesn’t have petrochemicals derived from acrylics, formaldehyde, ammonia and oil as well as synthetic dyes. 

 

Invest in air purifiers

Microscopic elements like dust and pollen can be difficult to clean so investing in an air purifier is best to avoid these especially if you have allergies or asthma. An air purifier sucks in dirty air, filters it and then releases it back all clean and refreshed; some even release negative ions that help neutralize airborne viruses and illnesses. No budget for air purifiers? Indoor plants serve a similar purpose just at a slower pace.

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