Steps to Guard Against Indoor Air Pollution

Reader Contribution by Jacques Touillon and Airboxlab
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While I try to live a sustainable lifestyle, up until recently, I admittedly didn’t think too much about the air I breathed indoors within my home — until my son began to struggle with severe asthma. My wife and I worked tirelessly to research effective remedies and did our best to provide him with each and every recommended treatment at the highest standards of care.

The more I explored, the more I realized I was not alone and began to think more critically about what I could do safeguard the air quality in my home environment. Indoor air quality is a critical problem in interior spaces today, characterized by building occupants (including school children) experiencing headaches, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, and other symptoms that abate once they leave the building. Additionally, poor indoor air quality is connected to a variety of infections, conditions and diseases, including lung cancer and asthma, according to the American Lung Association. Recent data also suggests that over 25 million people, or roughly 8 percent of the population, has asthma.

Indoor air is polluted by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These gases are emitted into the air from products like pesticides, air fresheners, cleaning products, paint and paint remover, personal care products, appliances, furniture and building products, including carpet and pressed-wood floors, and more. Sometimes VOCs react with other gases, forming other pollutants that are released into the air.

Even when some of these products aren’t being actively used, they still emit VOCs. This can happen when such products are simply stored or are being moved. Commonly released VOCs from these everyday household products are toxic compounds like benzene, toluene and formaldehyde.

Safeguarding Ourselves Against Indoor Air Pollution

The good news about poor indoor air quality is that we can take actions to reduce pollution and make the air we breathe healthier.  There are steps we can take – and they need not demand a major investment of money or time that can make a dramatic difference.

Don’t smoke inside the home. Secondhand smoke from cigarettes and cigars can substantially elevate pollution inside the home. Research shows that cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, exposing those who inhale it to all of the many health risks that smokers face.

Assess radon levels. Radon has been called a quiet killer because this clear, odorless gas heightens the risk of lung cancer — in fact, it is the second-leading cause of it in the United States. As a radioactive gas, radon emanates from the natural process of uranium decay in soil. Cracks in the foundation of homes and other access gaps enable it to seep in. Home radon kits are available for consumer use and sold at various price points. If test results indicate a potential problem, there are steps you can take to remediate and reduce it.

Bring the outdoors inside. Certain houseplants provide natural air-filtration benefits. The NASA Clean Air Study proved that common indoor plants can decrease organic chemicals, or VOCs, from indoor air; these include benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Also, open windows to release indoor toxins.

Eliminate or reduce artificial scents. Synthetic fragrances from air fresheners, household cleaners and detergents release various chemicals into the air. Under the law, the various pollutants, or chemicals, released from products like air fresheners are not required to be listed on product packaging. Stop using, or reduce usage of, carpet cleaners, furniture polishes, air fresheners and hair sprays that release these compounds. Look for natural scents to freshen the air, such as by using natural oils in a diffuser and by cleansing surfaces with lemons and baking soda.

Determine what’s in the air you breathe. Knowing exactly what chemicals and compounds are in your household air no longer has to be a guessing game. New devices can help to cleanse or purify your indoor air, monitor pollution sources and identify precisely which pollutants are contaminating the air your breathe.

Indoor Air Monitors

Living a healthy life requires being informed and applying that knowledge to our betterment. Fortunately, when it comes to indoor air quality, simple DIY steps exist for us all to make a sustainable difference. Indoor air quality monitors allow you to monitor the current levels of indoor air pollutants in your home.

One such device that can help you to monitor your indoor air quality is foobot. This device fits within the arena of the Internet of things (IoT) as a smart device. It leverages predictive artificial intelligence to optimize indoor air flow through chemical and physical pollution control, and temperature and humidity indicators.

Sensors continuously monitor pollution sources, that data is transmitted to a dedicated, secure server, and end users can then review findings and suggested corrective actions via a mobile application. Click here for more information on foobot.

Photo of indoor plants by MorgueFile/benhur; Photo of Foobot courtesy AirBoxLab; Video courtesy WUCF TV

Jacques Touillon is a serial entrepreneur. Environmental issues have always been his playground. He is the Founder and CEO of AirBoxLab, which recently introduced its Foobot air quality device to the U.S. market.

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