The Dangers of Indoor Air Pollution & How to Reduce Exposure

  • By: Mommy & Love
  • Date: November 23, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

*This post is sponsored by HomeLab, an indoor air quality service that monitors your air quality and guides you to a healthier home. Thanks in advance for reading and sharing this article. 
Why do many people escape to rural settings? Easy. The hustle and bustle of people and traffic can become overwhelming fast. Sirens and car horns billowing out. Dogs barking. How about the ability to simply breathe in some fresh air? If you live in a more remote location and travel to a big city for an event or shopping, there’s no doubt you’ve experienced a turn up of the nose as you walked down a garbage scattered street or felt unnerved under a heavily polluted rain cloud. There’s even a distinct difference in smell.
That’s outdoor pollution.

Let’s talk indoor air pollution.

We often don’t realize that pollution follows humans everywhere we go. Of course, we create waste and we know that living in the city can increase your indoor air pollution simply because there are more outdoor pollutants to follow us.
But even rural folks, like myself, are NOT excluded from the hidden dangers of indoor air pollution. Perhaps, they have it even worse. The World Health Organization states that over 4.3 million people die each year from exposure to household air pollution. These deaths are typically those residing in low and middle income areas who use solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) to cook and heat their homes. Rural areas rely more on solid fuels that cause greater indoor pollution.
There’s also hazardous chemicals and gases in paint, cleaning solutions, pesticides, fragrant air “neutralizers” and more that affect every household. Health effects include pneumonia, stroke, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

If you can easily identify the source of your household air pollution, you can work to reduce it. Having an air monitor, such as the HomeLab air monitor, can identify your trouble areas and find low to no cost solutions that will reduce your pollution.
Let’s examine the sources.

1. Particulate Matter (PM)

This is a term for inhalable particle pollution, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air that can get deep into your lungs, and even the bloodstream. There are three types: PM10 (visible to the naked eye), PM2.5 and ultra-fine.

  • PM10 are considered “coarse” particulates that have diameters 10 micrometers or smaller.
    • Dust, dirt and pollen
  • PM2.5 are considered “fine” particulates that have diameters 2.5 micrometers or smaller.
    • Mold, soot and smoke
  • Ultra fine particulates are even smaller at <.3 microns.

Health impacts are primarily seen in PM2.5 and “ultra fine’ particles (per EPA).

2. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs are chemicals that easily enter the air as gases from a number of indoor sources. Common VOC ingredients in household products include:

  • Formaldehyde in upholstered furniture, carpet and plywood.
  • Acetone, ethyl alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol in personal care products.
  • Heptane, butane, or pentane in aerosol products.
  • Freons in air conditioners, refrigerators, freezers and dehumidifiers.

The Department of Health in the state of New York lists several more household products containing VOCs. Basically, we are talking about paint strippers, degreasers, cleaners, and any product that has a warning label stating to use in a ventilated area. This is to bring in more oxygen and dilute the VOCs to reduce pollution levels.

3. Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

CO2 is an odorless, colorless gas produced naturally and through human activities, such as burning gasoline, coal, oil and wood. Too much CO2 can cause dizziness, disorientation and suffocation.

4. Humidity

High humidity increases the risk for mold, musty odors and dust mites that trigger allergy and asthma attacks. Therefore, humidity can increase the amount of particulate matter in the air.

HomeLab: Measure Your Indoor Air Pollution & Lower Exposure

HomeLab is an air quality service that offers customers the ability to measure, monitor and reduce these four air quality issues and more.
Once you sign up for the service, you will follow these three easy steps to reducing your indoor air pollution.

  1. HomeLab will send you an air monitor. You will download the HomeLab app from the Apple or Google Play store and sync it via wifi.
  2. The HomeLab monitor & app will translate your air quality data into numbered graphs with green/yellow/red colors to easily understand when you need to take action to protect your health.
  3. Then, you will be connected with a building scientist to review your results and create a personalized plan starting with zero to low cost solutions. If you need further solutions, they can recommend air filters, ventilation systems and even connect you with home improvement specialists.

More info on how it works – including a great video – can be found here.

My HomeLab Data Report

We set up a HomeLab monitor in my living room to see what data I’d accumulate. Each source of indoor air pollution is displayed in the graphs below.
This data is recorded from Sept 6-9th, 2016. I can go further in depth with the particulates data to show you some of the potential scientist recommendations for reducing PM pollution.
My particulates data shows a consistent increase during each day and decrease at night. This is caused by our daily cooking patterns and an increase in human activity (stirring up dust, pet dander, etc).

  • One solution mentioned was to use a sealed canister HEPA vacuum to help the particulates from being absorbed into surrounding sofas, blankets, carpets, and anything soft. If you vacuum regularly, it should help decrease levels by not having as much particulates floating in the air.
  • A second solution would be to install stove fans that vent outside. A main cause of daytime highs in PM is cooking without proper ventilation. We have a microwave fan above our stovetop that does nothing but protect the electronics in the microwave. If we installed a fan that actually drew the particulates outside rather than just spreading them around, the PM levels would decrease.

Try HomeLab’s Complete Service for Free

HomeLab guarantee:

After the first free month, the service costs $9.99/month and you can cancel anytime.

This week only Mommy & Love readers receive 20% off this service as an appreciation for supporting our sponsors and helping spread awareness of the dangers of indoor air pollution.

If you are ready to start reducing your indoor air pollution, use the CODE: MOMMYLOVE at checkout and you will only be charged $7.99/month after your free trial is up.

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