A face mask can only do so much to protect you from potential health risks when some of the most poisonous substances reside in our homes. Indoor air pollution kills as many as 3.8 million people every year. Learn how to improve air quality in your home for the betterment of all, especially the seniors, who are in jeopardy more than any of us.
Air pollution is often regarded as an outdoor issue, fueled by diesel cars and power plant emissions. While the global community has spent decades battling the problem of outdoor air pollution, less discussed is the fact that our daily exposure to air pollutants largely stems from our daily domestic activities.
According to a research conducted by the Hong Kong Baptist University in 2016, the air pollution in homes is worse than some of Hong Kong’s busiest roads. Researchers found that the levels of PM2.5, the ultra-fine dust particles that can lodge deeply in our lungs, were on average nearly 10% higher indoors than the highest level found outdoors. Levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were, on average, over 1250% higher in kitchens than outdoors.
The research is an increasingly alarming report that calls attention to not only outdoor smog, but also household air pollution that lurks in our insulated home.
The sources of household air pollution generates from routinely used equipment such as gas stoves, air fresheners and cleaning supplies. They emit pollutants like radon, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and even combustion pollutants driven by dryers and water heaters. Secondhand smoking stands as a considerable source too, affecting the elderly to a substantial extent. Individuals exposed to smoke are more prone than others to develop lung diseases or heart ailments. This is why a number of public spaces restrict smoking indoors.
Indoor air pollution poses severe health threats including, but not limited to impaired cognitive skills, increased risk of heart strokes, aggravation of asthma, eye diseases, and so on. The World Health Organisation estimates that about 3.8 million people die annually due to exposure to household air pollution.
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The elderly spends most of the time indoors, breathing the air inside the home, community centres or old-age homes. Naturally, it is vital for us, as caretakers, to familiarise ourselves with the many ways indoor air pollution presents itself. Given their weakened immune system, the elderly are more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. It is all the more important to be enveloped in clean air if you have an ageing loved one who is bedridden or physically disabled. We have compiled a list of easy and effective ways through which you can improve the air quality in your home:
1) Enable better ventilation
Simply open the doors and windows in the mornings and evenings to welcome fresh air. The use of artificial products such as heaters or air conditioners does not facilitate fresh airflow into the home. Thus, ventilation is a crucial way to replace the stagnant air with the outside breeze. Letting fumes vacate the vicinity while cooking will also do your loved one some good.
2) Install air purifying machines and plants
There are two ways to go about this – the natural, cost-effective option or the automated route. Given the serious implications of the problem, we suggest a blend of both as they will complement one another. Air purifying plants like aloe vera, spider plant and peace lily aid in the removal of toxins in the air. Place them on your balcony, or at the entrance of your home for added aesthetics! The air cleaners, at a higher cost, help remove contaminants from the air and are known to be significantly more effective than air purifying plants. Placing one in your ageing loved one’s room could extensively help them breathe fresher and cleaner air.
3) Regular cleaning
Dusting, vacuuming and mopping the floor on a daily basis is of utmost importance. A dirty environment is the perfect breeding ground for indoor pollution. Moreover, dust mites, or the tiny creatures invisible to the naked eye can commonly be found on bedding, curtains and even the clothes we wear. They compromise indoor air quality. From our furniture to our floors to our clothes – everything needs thorough cleansing.
4) Exercise caution
In addition to the points above, bear these points in mind at all times:
a) Do not smoke inside your home, especially if you live in a cramped environment.
b) If you own hairy pets such as dogs or cats, make sure they are well groomed and are kept off the beds and sofas.
c) Practice the act of removing shoes before entering homes to keep outside dirt at bay.
d) Use low-VOC emitting, environmentally-friendly paint the next time you decide to renovate your home.