How Indoor Air Quality Impacts Your Health
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Sad fact: Indoor air quality is usually far worse for your health than the air right outside your home.
The lovely things inside your house—everything from flooring to paint to mattresses and furniture—contain chemicals that off-gas into the air you breathe. These harmful toxins like formaldehyde (found in paper products and synthetic fabrics), benzene (in plastics, dyes and detergents) and VOCs (volatile organic compounds, in paints and varnishes) can cause symptoms such as allergies and inflammation, dizziness and drowsiness. Long-term exposure is linked to damage to the liver, kidney and brain, as well as certain types of cancer.
Your best bet for improving your indoor air quality is to limit the toxins you bring into your home in the first place. That means using safe cleaning products, candles and air fresheners, and doing your best to purchase safer product alternatives—like VOC-free paint, mattresses without flame retardants, and formaldehyde-free furniture.
ARE YOUR CLEANING SUPPLIES POLLUTING YOUR INDOOR AIR?
They might be! Most conventional cleaning supplies contain an entire cocktail of harmful ingredients that add chemical toxins to indoor air. Our Healthy Cleaning Guide shares more details on how cleaning supplies impact your home’s air quality, plus our favorite nontoxic clean-air options.
Get our free guide to chemical-free cleaning for a healthier home:
But if you live in a rental unit you can’t paint, or if you already have furniture that’s stuffed with alarming materials, you can turn to the next best option:
Natural Air Purifiers
Himalayan salt lamp
This lamp is essentially a big piece of Himalayan salt with a lightbulb inside. It cleans the air by emitting negative ions that bind to and neutralize positive ions nearby. (Negative ions are more prevalent in nature—in plants, thunderstorms, sunlight and moving water like crashing waves and waterfalls—whereas positive ions are emitted by electronics, mold, bacteria and allergens. Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and are considered “healthier”; studies show they contribute to improved mood and concentration, increased energy and reduced allergy and asthma symptoms.)
The lamp is most effective when it’s turned on, as the heat helps release negative ions from the salt. This lamp we use has a dimmer, so you can sleep with it on its lowest setting (and get those benefits all night long!) if its gentle orange glow doesn’t bother you.
Salt lamps come in different sizes suitable for different spaces (for a larger room you’ll want a larger lamp to release more negative ions). They’re becoming more “hip” and there are knock-off versions out there just for looks, so be sure your lamp is pure, food-grade Himalayan salt.
Activated charcoal is a great food poisoning remedy and natural teeth whitener (more about this soon!), and can also be used for absorbing odors and pollutants in your home. Due to its incredibly porous properties, activated charcoal effectively absorbs chemicals (including VOCs), bacteria, pollen and moisture from the air.
We recommend air-purifying bags of bamboo charcoal. These bags are also great for removing odors, toxins and allergens from your car. They last for several years and you can “re-charge” them by setting them in sunlight for a few hours.
Many plants effectively filter VOCs from the air around them. NASA actually conducted a study on this and suggested one houseplant per 100 square feet of space. Here are the best air-filtering plants, as tested by NASA. Some of the top contenders are snake plants, peace lilies, chrysanthemum and English ivy.
Using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter helps to remove pollutants and allergens from your home by targeting much smaller particles than a typical filter. The filter doesn’t have any effect on gases (such as VOCs) but does help to remove other pollutants such as dust and dander that can contribute to poor air quality.
FOUR WELLNESS TIP
Use one (or several!) of the natural air purifiers above to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
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