By: Dr. Justin Marchegiani
When we think of air pollution, we typically think of car exhaust and chemical factory gasses. However, you may be surprised to learn that indoor air is often MORE toxic than the air outside! This is really put into perspective when you realize average America spends about 90% of their life indoors. So, what can you do to make sure your indoor air is healthy? Today we’re going to dive into common airborne toxins in your home, and how to create a healthy indoor air environment!
Indoor vs. Outdoors Air
A growing body of scientific research is pointing to indoor air as more polluted than outdoor air—and yes, this even takes into account the air outside in overpopulated, industrialized cities. Since most people spend about 90% of their lives indoors, this points to indoor air as a seriously underlooked health issue. What makes matters direr: those who are most susceptible (the young, the sick, the elderly) are generally the ones who spend the most time indoors.
Common Effects of Indoor Air Pollution
If you suffer from the following symptoms, it’s time to re-evaluate the air you’re breathing:
- Respiratory problems (cough, chest pain, sneezing, congestion, chronic sinus issues, sore throat, breathing difficulty)
- Digestive issues (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, nausea)
- Skin problems (rash, itchiness)
- Fatigue, dizziness, headache, sensitivity to noise and light
- Cognitive function problems (concentration, memory, sleep, mood)
Common Indoor Air Toxins
There are a couple of main factors that make indoor air 2 to 5 times more toxic than outdoor air. One of these factors is the lack of ventilation inside the house, which leads to a buildup of toxic compounds.
Smoke: If a smoker lives in your house, the risk of secondhand smoke exposure should not be overlooked. The CDC has reported millions of deaths due to health problems caused by secondhand smoke exposure.
Mold: Mold and mildew can be deadly, and oftentimes go unnoticed. It is crucial to take the presence of mold in your home seriously. Professional remediation, and in some cases even changing residence, may be necessary.
Household Products: If you haven’t already read my article on fragrance as the new secondhand smoke, you’re in for an eye-opening experience. “Fragrance” is listed as an ingredient on at least 75% of mainstream products, ranging from shampoo to toilet cleaner. The word “fragrance” signifies a secret cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that are not subject to safety testing. However, many of these chemicals are known neurotoxins, cause respiratory problems, behavioral issues, and autoimmune disease. When you start using household cleaners and personal care items that contain chemicals such as fragrances, these particles are trapped in the air and you are subject to constant inhalation.
Chemicals: Most people now know that asbestos is nothing to play around with. Asbestos has been linked to lung cancer, Unfortunately, it still lingers in the insulation, paints and floor tiles of many homes. However, asbestos is not the only dangerous compound in your home.
Your furniture, pillow and mattress, carpet, and even the paint on your walls probably contain VOCs, volatile organic chemicals. These household objects outgas dangerous chemicals that stew inside your home and are linked to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
And more: There are some things that occur naturally and generally harmlessly in nature (pollen, animal dander, pest leavings), but become problematic when they make their way indoors. The lack of ventilation and fresh air allows allergens to fester and grow.
Steps for Healthy Air Inside Your Home or Office
While the dangers of indoor air pollution sound scary, luckily there are many things you can do to improve the air quality of your home and office.
- Open your windows: This is easy and free! Turning on fans to get the air circulating will do a lot to help move inside air outside, and to bring fresh air inside your house.
- Swap your products: Check the ingredients of the household and personal care products that you buy. Avoiding chemicals, like ‘fragrance,’ will do a lot to bring down the synthetic chemicals in your air.
- Air out new furniture: When you buy new furniture, a new mattress, a new rug, etc. you may have noticed a particular smell that diminishes over time. Rather than letting these toxic gasses released into the air you breathe, put the item either in your backyard, on your porch, or in the garage for a couple of days.
- Get a quality air filter: The Austin Air Filter is one of my favorite home air filters; I myself use the Austin Air filter in my home. These cutting edge units are ideal for individuals or families with severe allergies and asthma, chemical sensitivities, or chronic illnesses such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
- Test for mold: If you suspect you have mold, I urge you to have a professional test. Mold is a leading cause of many autoimmune and chronic fatigue conditions.
Do you have any questions about indoor air quality? If so, leave them in the comments below, or let me know on my Facebook page or YouTube channel, where I answer all your health and wellness questions!