Our house serves as a sanctuary where we relax and spend a lot of time in.
However, are you aware of unseen dangers within your four walls? Many people do not realise it but the air we inhale at home can be quite unhealthy.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks. It further states that the primary cause of poor indoor air quality in homes come from indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air.
Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home.
There are generally two categories of pollutants that can affect your home air quality:
a) Particles which include dust, smoke, pollen, animal dander and tobacco smoke. Pollutants in this category are also generated from combustion appliances such as cooking stoves. Tiny organisms such as dust mites, moulds, bacteria and viruses are also part of such particles.
b) Gaseous pollutants which come from combustion processes. Sources include gas-cooking stoves, vehicle exhaust and tobacco smoke as well as building materials, furnishings, and use of products such as adhesives, paints, varnishes, cleaning products and pesticides.
What you can do:
a) Keep your home well ventilated
How often have you seen houses with their doors and windows closed all the time and air-conditioning switched on 24/7? This is unhealthy because it just circulates the stale air within, as well as any indoor air pollutants found.
Instead, open your windows and doors to promote airflow, and switch on wall or ceiling fans regularly. Maintaining a good flow of fresh air is also encouraged in feng shui practices.
Exposure to cooking fumes can also be harmful to health. So, the next time you cook fried rice or tumis (stir-fry) sambal belacan, open all your kitchen windows and make sure your kitchen exhaust fans are working properly.
Increasing the amount of outdoor air coming into your home and good ventilation will help to remove or dilute air pollutants from indoor sources.
b) Get rid of the source of pollutants/reduce their emissions
It’s advisable to go through your house with a fine-tooth comb and identify the products and items that can be a source of the pollutants listed above.
Many Asians practice the burning of incense at home. However, studies have shown that incense smoke can be highly toxic and linked to the development of certain diseases.
Pressed-wood products – like those used in built-in kitchen cabinets or wardrobes – containing formaldehyde resins are often a source of formaldehyde in homes.
Animal dander, another culprit, can cause reactions in people who are specifically allergic to these triggers. Dander refers to tiny flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, birds and other animals with fur or feathers. It’s therefore important to vacuum and keep the premises clean, while maintaining good ventilation at all times.
c) Adopt healthy practices
Tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution. Do not smoke in the house, or even on your balcony.
Indoor plants can also help promote indoor air quality. According to several studies, the average houseplant can remove formaldehyde, benzene, and a host of other toxins that can be indoors. Examples include the Chinese Evergreen, Bamboo Palm or the Geranium plant.
However, be careful of potential allergies, the use of fertilisers and pesticides indoors, adequate ventilation and air flow, and the level of moisture maintained for the plants.
If there is mould growth in your home, clean up the mould and fix the water problem that caused the moisture built-up. Moulds produce allergens, irritants and sometimes, potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins).
d) Opt for natural air fresheners
Many homes rely on synthetic air fresheners to make their homes smell good. However, those with sensitive noses will know that the fragrances can be a bit too strong at times.
Rather than reaching for those synthetic air fresheners, why not try out the natural alternatives? Not only do they smell good, they also come with other benefits like chasing away pests.
Try out natural remedies like leaving lemon or lime rinds, pandan leaves, fresh coffee grounds, charcoal or baking soda in small bowls around the house.
It’s believed that pandan leaves produce a smell that acts as a deterrent to cockroaches, while coffee grounds can be used to repel pesky pests and pets.
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