It used to be that cooking aromas made their way from the kitchen to our bedroom. It was kind of nice if I was baking molasses cookies but not so great if I cooked haddock for supper. I knew that inhaling cooking fumes wasn’t great so last winter we installed a new range hood that vents to the outside and now our bedroom just smells like our dog.
Cooking fumes are just one of the many issues with indoor air quality that most of us live with, without understanding the consequences.
When you tally all of the in-home sources of air pollution it’s no surprise that the air quality indoors is, on average, two to five-times worse than the air outside. To put it in perspective, almost 6,000 Canadians die each year from smog pollutants. The effects of indoor air pollution haven’t been quantified but it is widely agreed that our lungs are suffering.
The good news is that improving the air quality in your home can be as simple as opening a window. But as we move into winter and shut our homes up tight, being mindful of the many sources, and solutions will do us all some good.
- Air fresheners are among the worst offenders, giving off a mix of phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals) and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that have been linked to increased incidences of headaches, diarrhea and depression. Replace aerosols, plug-ins and any other synthetic “fresheners” with essential oils and baking soda (or open a window.)
- Candles are culprits as well, especially if they’re scented. Most candles are petroleum-based and send chemicals into the air as they burn. Those that are artificially-scented, as most are, release phthalates. The EPA found that lighting nine candles in a single room resulted in pollution levels higher than the legal limit for outdoor air. Even worse, some candles available in Canada still have lead core wicks and burning them can result in lead poisoning. Instead look for beeswax candles and soy candles (naturally-scented with essential oils).
- When you bring dry cleaning home, remove the plastic and hang it on the clothesline or in the garage before bringing it in the house and never put it in the closet before airing it out. Dry cleaning effluent off-gasses VOCs (even so-called “organic” dry cleaners) and you don’t want to coop those fumes up in your closets.
- Vacuum and damp-dust regularly to get rid of dust mites and pet fur and dander.
- Invest in a dehumidifier to control humidity in your home so mould doesn’t become a worry.
- Properly vent your bathroom so moisture doesn’t build up and if you don’t have a vent, open the window.
- Properly vent your dryer to the outdoors to avoid humidity problems.
- Buy a few house plants. House plants filter the air in your home, digesting toxins and VOCs. Spider plants, English ivy and philodendron are among the best and 15 plants can clean the air in a 2,000 square foot home.