Humans take about 20,000 breaths each day and Americans spend a majority of their time indoors—spending about 90 percent of the day in their homes, cars or at work. Now that we are in a global pandemic, this rate of staying indoors has increased, according to Kenneth Mendez, CEO and president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. The quality of air inside new or old construction can have positive or adverse effects on the health of the people who live there.
Outdoor air quality is an issue, but the air inside, where we spend most of our time, has a number of pollutants added to it and can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air quality, states Dr. John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards Limited.
The source of indoor pollution is from the release of gases or particles into the air, ranging from fuel burning combustion sources, pet dander, man-made building products, cleaning products, pollen, excessive moisture causing mold and the infiltration of polluted outdoor air, all of which can potentially cause detrimental health effects, especially when there's long-term exposure. Adverse effects range from mild irritation to respiratory and breathing issues—and even more serious concerns, such as heart disease and cancer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Clean indoor air can provide relief for those who suffer from asthma or severe allergies. There are some simple steps that can be taken to help make indoor air quality less harmful. Leave windows and doors shut during peak pollen times or high levels of pollution, especially wildfire season. Establish routine cleaning and dusting habits using natural, safe and non-toxic cleaning products. Use plant-based essential oils in a diffuser as a safe alternative to candles and air fresheners that use fragrance and perfumes made from coal or petrochemicals. Change HVAC air filters frequently with high-quality, allergen-removing filters. Seal around doors, windows and any other places which allow the outdoor air inside, this reduces outdoor pollutants from infiltrating the home, such as exhaust, smoke and dust, to name a few. Sealing a home well can eliminate outdoor air from coming in. It's highly important to introduce fresh filtered air inside the home, as well. The installation of a whole-house fresh air ventilation system will exchange indoor air with fresh, filtered air from outside.
During home renovations, choose no-VOC paints and building products. There are great hard flooring options as well as natural fiber carpeting that are hypoallergenic and asthma-sufferer friendly. When purchasing a new home, look for a builder that builds to higher standards using intentionally selected healthier materials and offers proper air ventilation and filtration systems.
Home construction or remodeling, along with every other aspect of our lives, should be done with thoughtful intention when selecting materials that we are exposed to. It's important to ask the question: How is this option going to affect myself, my family and the earth? In consideration of indoor air quality, healthy clean air equals fewer health issues and a happier way of life.