When people think of polluted air, outdoor air pollution is often first to come to mind. But did you know that the air quality in an indoor environment can be just as bad, if not even worse?
In fact, experts say that the air within homes and indoor public places like schools can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor ambient air in even the largest and most industrialized cities (Oliveira, M. et al., 2022; Niculita-Hirzel, H., 2022).
Fortunately, you can support your overall health and quality of life by taking steps to ensure clean breathing air in your home, workplace, and recreational areas. Since many individuals spend the majority of their time inside, it's vital that we maintain healthy indoor air quality and discover strategies to improve it!
Who Monitors Indoor Air Quality?
Simply put, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of checking how safe the air is within buildings — their main focus is promoting the well-being of people and the ecosystem. They do this by ensuring the safe manufacturing, distribution, preservation, and disposal of hazardous substances and other pollutants.
And as part of the Clean Air Act, they set the maximum allowable amounts for certain air contaminants (CAA). In addition, air pollution emissions from major industrial plants like petroleum refineries, electric utilities, and steel mills are under EPA regulation.
Can Poor Indoor Air Quality Make You Sick?
Unfortunately, indoor air pollution can be very bad for your health. Although anyone who is exposed can experience side effects, folks who are most likely to get sick from it are usually the most fragile amongst us. This includes children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic conditions.
Poor indoor air quality can manifest in a number of unfavorable problems and health effects, such as:
- Trouble breathing
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, dry eyes
- Asthma attacks (Kang, I. et al., 2022)
- Skin rashes (Niculita-Hirzel, H., 2022)
- Aggravated allergy symptoms
- Ear and throat irritation
- Cancers (Sarigiannis, D. et al., 2011)
What Causes Poor Indoor Air Quality?
One of the primary contributors is particulate matter (PM). Particulate matter refers to the mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets in the air, and it can come from an array of both natural and unnatural sources, such as the smoke that comes from a fire, or the dust that comes from a construction site.
Additionally, building supplies (think wood furnishings, asbestos, paint, etc.), pesticides, air fresheners, and even household cleaners produce harmful gasses called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (Zhou, X., 2022).
Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released into the air we constantly breathe, where they slowly wreak havoc on our health and well-being. VOCs can contribute to various health problems, from headaches to cancer to respiratory disease. including certain respiratory diseases (Baeza Romero, M.T., 2022).
How Can You Improve Poor Indoor Air Quality?
Think you're dealing with polluted indoor air? Let’s talk about what you can do to improve the air quality inside your home.
Although there are many things you can do to improve indoor air quality, here are a few of our favorite methods:
Choose Green Cleaning products
Many standard disinfecting and cleaning products contain chemicals that are bad for your health and pollute the air inside your home.
To avoid this, use green cleansers prepared with natural ingredients such as white vinegar, baking soda, and borax. These organic products are safe to use indoors, won't pollute the air, and can do wonders to remove dirt, dust, and grime from surfaces.
In one study, bleach was compared to an environmentally preferred cleaner as well as a homemade vinegar-based cleaner for cleaning and disinfecting. The results showed that in almost all cases, the environmentally preferred cleaner acted as an effective alternative for disinfecting compared to bleach, and the homemade vinegar mix was still adequate for general household cleaning.
Use Proper Ventilation
Keeping the air moving in your home is a simple (and sometimes free) method for improving air quality. Inadequate ventilation can contribute to high concentrations of toxins and irritants in the air around your home.
One approach to achieve better ventilation is to open windows and doors to allow fresh air in — provided the outdoor air is clean and pollen-free (which isn’t the case for most urban living situations, where you’ll need to rely on having a proper ventilation system in your building to keep cleaner air flowing).
Note that it would require many ventilation sessions per day, as these VOCs are often continuously and constantly emitted from various indoor sources (Wang, C. et al., 2020).
And with all of that, it's important to keep in mind that air can still enter your home through vents and weak spots like small gaps around doors.
Even though you can't do much about the air that slips through these itty-bitty openings, it could help to ensure that the airflow entering your living area through vents isn't making the problem worse by introducing indoor air contaminants.
Smart ventilation includes:
- Changing the filters in your home's heating and air conditioning systems regularly.
- Making sure that your home's air ducts are clean and unblocked since dust can build up over time.
- Inspecting the filters in household items that bring air into your home and maintaining them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Use Low-VOC Paint
Look for paints that are low in VOCs and don't emit a strong odor of chemicals, as both of these traits are sources of indoor air pollution. Paint brands that say they are non-toxic should list the ingredients on their containers or be transparent about them if asked.
You should also look for paints that are free of plastic ingredients, which can create a barrier on wall surfaces that traps air and contributes to mold growth.
Try to stay away from petrochemicals, which are made from fossil fuels. Get rid of oil-based paints and switch to water-based ones, but ensure this doesn't just mean they're watered down.
Fortunately, governments do impose some limits on the amount of VOCs paints can contain. However, some have fewer levels than others. VOC-rich paints worsen your home's air quality and can make asthma and allergies more likely. If you can, stick with paints that have low or no VOCs.
Avoid New Furniture
Believe it or not, the furnishings you choose make a big difference in the air you breathe. This is because many of them are constructed with glues and other materials that can emit toxins for years after they have left the factory.
In other words, even though a brand-new sofa is a nice treat, it may be leaking toxins into your living room. When exposed to direct sunlight or increased heat, the solvents contained in many newly produced textiles, woods and paints form VOCs and are released into the air, decreasing the air quality in your home.
Fortunately, you can avoid this by exploring a local store specializing in vintage home furnishings. After a few years, furniture emits much less VOCs, meaning it can be safely brought into your home.
Be picky about the pieces you buy, research their construction, and avoid anything constructed from particle board building materials.
Choosing vintage pieces is a good idea because these pieces have not only already been off-gassed but are also reliable. Shop smart!
Explore Bioengineered Plants
Especially in recent years, a lot of people are looking to bulky air purifiers to try and keep their air clean, but the truth is that even the most technologically advanced of these machines are still with flaws — even HEPA filters don’t filter VOCs, which are a thousand times smaller than the highest-rated HEPA filter.
In another notable flaw, the use of some air filters ultimately leads to more pollution being generated than what’s actually being remediated. For example, air cleaners that use photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) in an attempt to remediate VOCs can generate formaldehyde and other carcinogens as a byproduct.
You see, air purifiers using HEPA technology can be a useful tool in your battle against particulate matter, but in order to eliminate harmful gaseous chemicals from the air you breathe, consider Neo P1 from Neoplants — the first generation of bioengineered plants that fight air pollution.
You may have heard that normal houseplants improve your air quality. The sad truth is this — when it comes down to it, houseplants just aren’t powerful enough to combat indoor air pollution.
Neoplants are science-backed and Neo P1 is proven to help depollute your ambient indoor air, all thanks to metabolism engineering of the Golden Pothos plant.
Neo P1 is bioengineered to remove health-damaging VOCs like benzene, xylene, formaldehyde, ethylbenzene, and toluene from the air so that you and your loved ones can breathe a little easier.
Neo P1 is up to 30 times better at air purification than the best plants tested by the NASA Clean Air study, and it recycles the four main VOCs into sugar and amino acids, using them to grow.
The Bottom Line
Many things can change the air quality in your home, which can have both short-term and long-term effects on your health.
In addition, taking action to prevent and eliminate dangerous indoor air pollutants can help you maximize the air quality in your home while minimizing any related health concerns.
And one surefire way to do just this is with the use of Neoplants — the world's first (soon-to-be-released), commercially-available plants that have been specifically bioengineered to purify indoor air.
Join the waiting list to be one of the first to get Neo P1 when pre-orders open. Join Neoplants as we breathe life into this radically new way of enjoying fresher air.
Baeza Romero, M.T., Dudzinska, M.R., Amouei Torkmahalleh, M., Barros, N., Coggins, A.M., Ruzgar, D.G., Kildsgaard, I., Naseri, M., Rong, L., Saffell, J., Scutaru, A.M., Staszowska, A. (2022). A review of critical residential buildings parameters and activities when investigating indoor air quality and pollutants. Indoor Air. 32(11):e13144. doi:10.1111/ina.13144.
Kang, I. et al. (2022). Impacts of residential indoor air quality and environmental risk factors on adult asthma-related health outcomes in Chicago, IL. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. doi:10.1038/s41370-022-00503-z
Maung, T.Z., Bishop, J.E., Holt, E., Turner, A.M., Pfrang, C. (2022). Indoor Air Pollution and the Health of Vulnerable Groups: A Systematic Review Focused on Particulate Matter (PM), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Their Effects on Children and People with Pre-Existing Lung Disease. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 19(14):8752. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19148752. PMID: 35886604; PMCID: PMC9316830.
Niculita-Hirzel, H. (2022): Latest Trends in Pollutant Accumulations at Threatening Levels in Energy-Efficient Residential Buildings with and without Mechanical Ventilation: A Review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 19(6):3538. doi:10.3390/ijerph19063538
Oliveira, M., Slezakova, K., Delerue-Matos, C., Carmo Pereira, M., Morais, S. (2022). Children environmental exposure to particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and biomonitoring in school environments: A review on indoor and outdoor exposure levels, major sources and health impacts. Environ. Int. 124:180-204. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2018.12.052.
Sarigiannis, D., Karakitsios, S., Gotti, A., Liakos, I., Katsoyiannis, A. (2011). Exposure to major volatile organic compounds and carbonyls in European indoor environments and associated health risk. Environ. Int. 37(4):743-65. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2011.01.005
The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
Indoor Air Quality | USAGov
Clean Air Act Text | US EPA
Antiques Are Green | Unite for Climate
Will air cleaners reduce health risks? | US EPA
Particulate Matter (PM) Basics | US EPA