What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the term air pollution? If your brain conjures up images of billowing plumes of smoke coming out of industrial factories or a thick layer of smog settling into a valley, you’re not alone.
And while this outdoor air pollution is certainly a problem, the harmful effects of air pollution can actually hit much closer to home – much much closer. As our world becomes increasingly toxic, so does the indoor air in our homes and workplaces – with indoor air pollution becoming a growing threat to everyone’s well-being.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive into exactly what indoor air pollution is, where all these indoor air pollutants are coming from, and most importantly – cover some simple steps you can take to protect yourself from the harmful effects of poor indoor air quality.
What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution, in simplest terms, occurs when the air becomes contaminated with any biological, chemical, or physical agent that alters the quality of the atmosphere. These pollutants can be found in two primary forms:1
- In gaseous form or molecules of gas
- In solid form as tiny bits of particulate matter suspended in the air
These air pollutants can wind up floating around in our air through any number of avenues ranging from natural forest fires and the release of pollen from plants to emissions from energy plants and vehicles. At first glance, it makes sense to assume that this air pollution is primarily an outdoor issue, but as it turns out, these air pollutants can sneak their way right into our homes.
Can Air Pollution Happen Indoors?
The answer to this question is – absolutely. In fact, studies have found that our indoor air can be anywhere from 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Pair that with the fact that the majority of people spend a whopping 90% of their time indoors and you can see why this is troublesome.2,3
You see, thanks to our modern-day lifestyles and advancements in technology and construction, most of our lives are spent indoors – whether it’s in your home, office, school, vehicle, or the grocery store – there’s no denying that we spend a lot of time inside. And because homes, buildings, and vehicles are typically constructed in a way that seals them up tight with very little air circulation, these air pollutants can become trapped indoors and begin accumulating.
But where exactly are all of these air pollutants coming from in the first place?
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution
There are countless pollutants that can contribute to declining indoor air quality. While many of these pollutants are normal and unavoidable, the problem arises when pollutants accumulate and pollution levels indoors begin to rise to unsafe levels. Just a handful of sources of indoor air pollution include:4,5,6,7
- Biological compounds: Like viruses and bacteria.
- Chemical pollutants and fragrances: Cleaning products and fragrances from things like air fresheners can contain a laundry list of toxic chemicals that can accumulate in our indoor air.
- Insects: Such as dust mites and cockroaches.
- Mold: Mold can be lurking in hard-to-detect spaces indoors and release harmful airborne metabolites known as mycotoxins that can wreak havoc on your health (click here to read more about mold).
- Natural pollutants: Like pollen, dust, or smoke from fires.
- Particulate matter: From things like cooking indoors, fireplaces, woodburning stoves, or particulate matter brought in from outdoors.
- Pet pollutants: Including things like pet hair, pet dander, remnants from their saliva, urine, and feces.
- Volatile organic compounds: Many of the materials used for construction in homes and buildings can release toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs in a process known as off-gassing. Materials like carpet, paint, insulation, and even your furniture can continuously off-gas these VOCs that contribute to indoor air pollution.
As you can see, our indoor air is regularly hit with a barrage of toxic pollutants. So what kind of impact can this indoor air pollution really have on our health?
Indoor Air Pollution Effects
Just some of the health effects that have been associated with indoor air pollution include:8,9
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and/or throat
- Loss of coordination
And if left unaddressed, chronic exposure to these noxious compounds found in polluted indoor air can lead to much more serious complications like:8,9
- Impaired respiratory function and respiratory conditions like COPD
- Aggravation of asthma and/or enhanced asthmatic reactions
- Liver and kidney damage
- Damage to the brain and central nervous system
- Cardiac issues like irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease
- DNA damage
- And even death
With such serious potential consequences, you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect yourself from the frightening and harmful effects of indoor air pollution.
Indoor Air Pollution Solutions: How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution
Fortunately, there are some simple and powerfully effective steps you can take that can drastically improve the quality of your indoor air. Let’s take a look at a few of the most impactful shifts you can make to minimize indoor air pollution.
Get Some Fresh Air
With modern construction practices, buildings and vehicles are designed to be sealed up tight with minimal air circulation. This lack of air circulation creates the perfect scenario for a build-up of pollutants floating around in your indoor air. Simply getting some fresh air circulating in and pushing out some of this stale, pollutant-filled air can make a world of difference in your air quality.
So open up some windows and doors and let some fresh outdoor air inside. The only caveat to this is if your outdoor air is particularly polluted (like with smog, smoke, or even a heavy dusting of pollen).
Opt for Natural Fragrances
We all want our homes and vehicles to smell fresh, clean, and inviting. But synthetic fragrances can be a major source of air pollution. So ditch the toxic synthetic scents and opt instead for a more natural understated fragrance.
That might mean no scent at all, picking a fresh bouquet of flowers to set on the counter, or maybe using all-natural essential oils.
Switch to Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
It’s not uncommon for many of us to have a cupboard full of different cleaning products – with each one containing a laundry list of hard-to-pronounce chemicals. When we set out to tidy up and disinfect around the house, these cleaning products can leave a slew of air pollutants in their wake.
Making the switch to less toxic cleaning products can make a world of difference in reducing the concentration of chemicals lurking in your indoor air.
Invest In a High-Quality Air Filtration System
A high-quality air filtration system or air purification system will work around the clock to help clean and purify your indoor air. These systems work by pulling air through a dense web of fibers and other materials like carbon to draw in and trap any air pollutants. The highest-quality air purification systems typically include an ultra-filter HEPA filter to remove any particulate matter and a carbon filter to trap any harmful gaseous molecules.
There are several excellent air purification systems available on the market that have ample scientific proof to back up their air-purifying claims, But the truth is, these top-notch air filtration systems are often a financial investment. So if investing in one of the gold-standard air purification systems isn’t in your budget quite yet, there are still some ways to clean and purify your indoor air.
A quick Google search for DIY home air filters will yield some simple steps to build your own air cleaning system at home with a few simple supplies. While these DIY filters may not be quite as robust as some of the higher-end systems you can purchase, they can still go a long way in helping to boost the quality of your indoor air.
Ready to Upgrade Your Indoor Air?
Indoor air pollution is a serious and growing concern when it comes to your health. Addressing the quality of your indoor air can be a crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to giving your body the support it needs to heal or to take your health to the next level.
If you’re ready to upgrade your indoor air and explore all of the “puzzle pieces” that may be contributing to your symptoms or holding you back from reaching optimal levels of health, we can help. Here at Silver Tree Wellness, we specialize in diving deep into every single aspect of your well-being. We leave no stone unturned and get into the nitty-gritty details of not just the basics like diet, exercise, and sleep, but the quality of your air and overall environment as well as the quality of your thoughts, feelings, relationships, and more.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your health journey, we’ve got you covered. We’ll hold your hand every step of the way as we work together to create an entirely personalized plan for healing and optimizing your well-being. You can schedule your consultation by calling our office at 602-675-0170 or sending us an email by clicking right here.
- Air Pollution: MedlinePlus
- Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- Chapter 5: Indoor Air Pollutants and Toxic Materials | Healthy Housing Reference Manual | NCEH (cdc.gov)
- Indoor Air Quality | US EPA
- Indoor air pollution: What causes it and how to tackle it | World Economic Forum (weforum.org)
- INDOOR AIR QUALITY: Scented Products Emit a Bouquet of VOCs – PMC (nih.gov)
- Indoor Air Pollution, Related Human Diseases, and Recent Trends in the Control and Improvement of Indoor Air Quality – PMC (nih.gov)
- Household air pollution and health (who.int)