As temperatures drop, you may find yourself shutting all windows and doors in an attempt to stay warm. While it may feel cosy being shielded from the cold, that lack of ventilation carries many health risks. Indoor air quality can be compromised by a range of factors and common pollutants can include lead, nitrogen dioxide, radon, volatile organic compounds, pesticide residues, wood and second hand tobacco smoke. Batting down the hatches to keep out the winter cold can lead to far higher concentrations of air pollutants inside your home than outside.
Health risks of poor indoor air quality
The WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates that poor indoor air is responsible for nearly 3% of the global burden of disease. Keeping your windows and doors shut carries these health dangers:
- Lack of ventilation increases the amount of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander, and mould spores circulating through your house.
- No flow of fresh air from the outside means that allergens, bacteria and other microbes stay trapped inside – these pollutants are up to five times more concentrated inside than outside.
- Asthma flare-ups and allergies are likely to increase through the colder months if you always keep doors and windows shut.
- Higher concentration of CO2 levels are accumulated indoors with closed windows and more time spent inside – too much CO2 exposure causes headaches, restlessness, drowsiness, poor sleep, respiratory issues, cardiovascular irregularities, inability to concentrate and more!
- Indoor air pollution is linked to an increased risk of pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory concerns.
Michele Carelse, Feelgood Health Founder and CEO shares these six tips for how to improve indoor air quality in the cold winter months ahead:
Make sure a window is often, or always, open – Keep a window open, even if it’s only slightly cracked open. This is the easiest and most cost-effective way of cleaning the indoor air.
Keep houseplants in every room – Indoor houseplants are a brilliant (and pretty) way to purify the air, as these plants naturally filter the air and improve air quality. Lilies, ferns, chrysanthemums, snake plants and palms are some of the best indoor plants for filtering the air, plus they make for beautiful home decor. If you have pets inside the home, it is important to choose indoor plants that are non-toxic to animals.
Use natural cleaning products – Most cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that damage your air quality, especially if you’re keeping the windows and doors shut. Research shows that cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting products potentially contribute to nearly 20% of indoor pollution. The good news is that an increasing number of people are becoming aware of the dangers of these common cleaning products and are switching to non-toxic products, which are becoming more available on the market.
Essential oil diffusers – Not only do essential oils smell wonderful, some also have strong air purification properties. Certain essential oils, when used in a diffuser, have shown promise against airborne pathogens. Pine, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree, oregano, thyme, lemon, and anise essential oils were all shown to effectively reduce microbes in the air. Avoid essential oils labelled as “fragrance” or “perfume” because these are made of synthetic chemicals which can negatively affect the air quality in your home, as well as your health.
Dust regularly – Dust is an irritant that aggravates symptoms of allergies, asthma, irritations of the eyes, coughing, and various other respiratory issues. You’ll be surprised to learn how much rugs, cushions, couches and other surfaces retain dust particles and mites. To improve air quality, dust out your home regularly; take cushions, bedding and rugs outside to bang out the dust outside of your home. Vacuum/sweep carpets, corners and other surfaces and keep surfaces clean of clutter – as clutter makes perfect environments to collect dust – and wipe them clean to pick up all remaining particles.
Avoid air fresheners and scented candles – Although air fresheners and candles make your house smell lovely and fresh, they release harmful chemicals into the air. Rather invest in natural candles, and instead of an air freshener, use an aromatherapy diffuser or oil burner with essential oils. Using natural incense resins and sticks is another way of perfuming your space without adding harmful chemicals to the air you breathe.