When it comes to indoor air we have to be very careful because common activities can deteriorate the air quality very fast. Apart from the fact that we spend a lot of time indoors, an indoor environment needs more time to recover once air pollution become present because houses tend to be very tight and don’t allow the dilution of pollutants as fast as ambient air.
Even people that are very conscious, like myself, commit mistakes. The other day, for example, I was preparing caramel syrup for a holiday dessert, and as I wasn’t paying attention to the caramel (because I was multitasking), the caramel burnt. In a matter of seconds, IAQ dropped significantly. VOCs and PMx concentrations rose. At that moment and based on the outdoor conditions, I decided that it was more appropriate to open all windows in order to dilute the pollutants fast. Cross ventilation to the rescue!
- First lesson: Don’t leave food unattended on the stove/toaster.
- Don’t use vacuum cleaners without HEPA filters as they release millions of fine particles back into the indoor air.
- Don’t use house perfumes and air refreshers. They are full of chemicals and solvents.
- Don’t use tap water or mineral water in your humidifiers. Always use distilled water as we want to avoid releasing solid aerosols into the breathable air.
- Stay away from wood burners, fireplaces, and gas appliances for heating and cooking. They are the number one source of severe air pollution.
- Don’t use perfumed cleaning products and avoid chemicals as much as you can. Bleach, for example can form secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), which are a form of particulate matter.
- Don’t use fabric softener and dryer sheets as researchers have found more than 25 VOCs, including 7 hazardous air pollutants (carcinogenic acetaldehyde and benzene) link. (It is demonstrated that fabric softener harm washing machines).
- Ventilate: bring CO2 and VOC concentrations down.
- Monitor both indoor and outdoor air quality as it can help you take the right decision.
- Vacuum your couch and other big surfaces in order to remove allergens that deposit over time.
- Blankets should be ventilated too.
Indoor spaces deserve our attention and by avoiding some actions we can breathe clean air. FYI, clean air smells nothing!