This post is from KS contributing writer Jamie Larrison of How To Just About Anything.
Who doesn’t love the smell of a good stinky gym bag, or a dog kennel, or even your great aunt’s old couch from the ’70’s?
While you may think it’s ridiculous that anyone would enjoy taking a whiff of these stinky smells, did you realize your home’s air could be just as bad for you?
Outdoor air has natural filters, like plants and rain, that are constantly cleaning the air. Unfortunately because of factories, cars and other pollution sources, the outdoor air isn’t as clean as it could be.
Indoor air, though, has none of these natural filters. You could subject your home to a rain shower with the garden hose, but there’s no ground for it to seep into, just your carpet. And then you’re growing mold. Kind of defeats the purpose.
Dirty air vents, pet dander and hair, dust, mold, mites and chemical gasses are just some of the pollutants we’re exposed to in our homes. Even if you clean your home daily, there are air pollution exposures.
Can it really be that bad? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen by breathing in slightly less than pristine air?
Radioactive Gas in Your Home
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon fumes are a major cause for concern for many homes, schools and businesses. Nearly 1/3 of the homes tested had levels that exceeded maximum limits.
“A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/l is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure)
An elementary school student that spends 8 hours per day and 180 days per year in a classroom with 4 pCi/l of radon will receive nearly 10 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows at the edge of a nuclear power plant.(25 mrem limit, 200 mrem exposure).” (source)
This gas can be found in groundwater, soil and building materials and is the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.
Mold in the air is another issue that’s been gaining lots of traction lately, and for good reason. The symptoms of mold exposure range from mild ones like sneezing and headaches, to vomiting, fatigue, breathing problems, ear infections, swollen glands, brain damage and cancer. (source).
Many have lost their homes and everything they own to mold toxicity. You can read one blogger’s story about that here. Someone else I know of was literally on death’s doorstep from mold exposure in her home, but began recovery immediately upon moving out.
With all of these sources of pollution, should we just don our gasmasks and hazmat suits every time we enter our homes? Fortunately there are ways to significantly reduce indoor air pollution without such extreme measures.
Charcoal Filter Bags
The scientific literature has long supported the use of activated charcoal for filtering the air. You don’t have to have an expensive air filtration system though to glean these benefits.
This company sells bags of bamboo charcoal that help dehumidify the air and thus control mold and mildew. They also claim to absorb odors, pollution and allergens. Different sizes are available depending on the square footage covered. To refresh the bag, it simply needs to be placed in direct sunlight every 30 days.
Regular paraffin candles contain 7 toxic chemicals, including 2 that cause cancer according to this article. Pure beeswax candles though release negative ions that have the unique ability to bind to suspended allergens in the air, cleaning the air. This can reduce contaminants like dust, dander and other allergens.
Here are instructions for how to make your own beeswax candles.
I wasn’t able to find specific information on mold reduction with this method, but it seems like any positive ion suspended in the air, such as airborne mold, would be reduced by burning 100% beeswax candles.
This is one of my favorite ways to clear the air. Plants naturally convert the carbon dioxide in the air to oxygen for us to breathe, recycling the air. NASA studied which plants were most effective at cleaning the air of toxins like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. That list can be found here.
These can be placed in pots on the windowsill, or even grown in special fabric pockets. We have a grow light over this plant pocket since our natural light is too low to grow plants. You can even have a living wall covered entirely in plants!
Diffusing Essential Oils
There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about the power of essential oils. You can do everything from make your own 2 minute laundry detergent, to a 1 minute peppermint clear skin facial toner or a DIY spray that reduces spider and varicose veins.
You can even use a cleaner with an anti-germ oil blend to wipe down surfaces that have mold or are prone to mold, like windowsills. The EPA and other sources recommend AGAINST using bleach to kill mold, which has been shown to make the mold problem worse.
Katie here: I have started using a simple, cheap and effective cleaner that might surprise you!
Anti-fungal and purifying essential oils
- thieves blend
- purify blend
Important note from Katie: Use essential oils with caution. Most of those listed above may not be safe for homes with babies and young children. Thyme is one I’m adding to my personal collection as it has antibacterial properties but is generally seen as safe to diffuse around kids.
EDIT: Neat info sent to me by a reader:
1. Some indoor air pollution sources, such as mildew stuck under bathroom tiles, can be directly mitigated with minor remodeling and not necessitating moving out from “sick” buildings.
2. Offgassing from new items is a large contributing factor for indoor air pollution. Most furniture is made with a form of pressboard, which often contains formaldehyde; upholstery contains foam which by law includes bromides and other flame retardants, and new carpeting and petroleum derived products contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
3. Chemical air fresheners and deodorizers contain unhealthy, headache inducing chemicals such as benzenes and phthalates.
Disclosure: There may be affiliate links in this post from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.