Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Indoor Air Quality

I recently listened to a podcast by Daniel Vitalis about indoor air quality. With all my recent focus on dust and air fresheners, learning a bit more about the air quality in the house seemed right up my ally.

I was not surprised to learn the the quality of the air indoors is significantly worse than the quality of the air outdoors, even during hot, humid days with poor air quality. So on the days when the weatherman advises you to stay indoors because of the air quality, he is actually advising you to go inside to more pollution!

One of the reasons for the poor air quality indoors is the presence of volatile organic compounds. (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that have a high vapor pressure, which causes them to evaporate into the surrounding air. High levels of VOCs can have long term health effects.

VOCs are produced when household products outgas chemicals from which they are made. When outgassing occurs in a closed environment, chemicals in the gas form accumulate. ("New car smell" is a result of outgassing from the seats in the enclosed environment of a car.)

In order to improve the indoor air quality, a number of steps may be taken:

1) First and foremost, open windows. Ideally, open windows on either side of a room to produce a cross breeze.

2) Utilize Houseplants: Plants have the ability to neutralize VOCs.

3) Use a HEP filter: HEPA filters (high efficiency particulate air filters) are effective at removing dust, smoke, soot produced from cooking, etc from the air.

4) Periodically, use an ionic air purifier. Unlike filters, which remove particles from the air, ionic air purifiers release negatively charged ions into the air. The net result is fresher, more clean smelling air. (Think of how the air smells after a thunder storm)

5) Monitor the humidity level. In the winter, when the air gets dry, boil water or keep a spray bottle of water to mist the air. In the summer when it becomes humid, utilize a dehumidifier. Keeping the air at a neutral humidity level can reduce the incidence of dust mites, mold, and mildew.

The entier podcast with even more info on indoor air quality can be found on his website. 
Check it out. I'm off to check out air filters!

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