Homes, offices, means of transport… We spend a huge amount of time in indoor spaces. And believe it or not, they are much more polluted than the outside air. Indeed, the air inside homes is eight times more polluted than the outside air! But we spend 80% of our time indoors. So how can we reduce this indoor pollution to breathe healthier air?
6 ways to reduce indoor pollution
You might think that particles from outside get into our homes. Far from it. Human activity it one of the biggest sources: doing housework, taking a shower, cooking, heating the home, burning incense or a candle, using room freshener, smoking, doing DIY, buying a bunch of flowers… These activities give off chemical pollutants (volatile organic compounds, ash, fumes from glues and resins, carbon dioxide) and organic pollutants (mould and dust mites, which are allergens…). And then there are pollutants given off by furniture made from MDF, upholstery fabric treatments, etc. So what can we do?
1 - Cut out polluting substances
- It might be stating the obvious, but don’t smoke indoors!
- Avoid room fresheners, chemical deodorisers, candles and incense. Clean has no smell.
- Go eco-friendly, by favouring basic, tried-and-trusted preparations for household upkeep: bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, soap nuts and products bearing eco-friendly labels. You can also find the least polluting products listed on the website of the French ecological transition agency (ADEME)
- Some types of furniture give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde from preparations used in the production process, not least glues. So favour furniture, paint and floor coverings bearing an eco-friendly label. For MDF, class E1 (fume emissions no higher than 0.124mg/m3) is a minimum. If you have the option, favour MDF class E0.5 which has a lower fume emissions threshold (no higher than 0.62mg/m3).
2 - Maintain burners properly
- It’s essential to have your boiler serviced once a year by a qualified professional! To be done preferably before the cold season rolls around and in accordance with the instruction manual.
- It may be compulsory to have your chimney swept once a year (check the regulations in force in your area).
- If you burn firewood to heat your home, it’s best to use a high-quality one (for example in France, NF Bois de chauffage or France Bois Bûche, or wood chips bearing the “DIN plus” or “EN plus” label). Also, don’t burn salvaged wooden items, or damp wood.
- Don’t use gas-fuelled or oil-fuelled portable occasional heaters continuously (with the wrong settings, appliances can give off deadly carbon monoxide gas.)
3 - Air out, air out and air out some more
It’s now a WHO recommendation for avoiding viral infections. Opening the windows of each room for 10 minutes several times a day is paramount for renewing the air indoors, whatever the season. To be done preferably outside of times when traffic is heavy, early in the morning or late at night, which makes it possible to rein in the concentration of pollutants, especially when doing housework or DIY. It’s also important to not block air vents and to keep them clean.
When painting, hanging wallpaper or laying carpet, hardwood flooring or lino… Or after buying new furniture, air out the newly-decorated or furnished rooms for several days. When getting a nursery ready for a new baby, it’s best to do so several months in advance so that the pollutants given off by the paint and furniture dissipate by the time the little one comes along.
4 - Get rid of damp
The bathroom, shower, kitchen, laundry hung out to dry: all of these generate a lot of steam that can lead to condensation on the walls and furniture.
If you have a tumble drier, check that it expels the used air outside of the building. If you notice mould, you must clean it off right away. It can give off allergens and compromise the respiratory system of susceptible people. A damp home is often a telltale sign of inadequate ventilation.
5 - Renew the air with CMV
New buildings – subject (in France) to RT2012 regulations – are better insulated and more energy efficient. But insulated also means airtight.
The solution: installing a Controlled Mechanical Ventilation (CMV) appliance. It should be the right size for the space, and left on all the time. You should regularly check that it’s working properly, and clean its mesh air outlet. It does the job of continuously renewing the air.
In homes in old buildings with no mechanical ventilation, the air indoors is chiefly renewed naturally by draughts, not least through gaps around old doors and windows. So opening windows contributes little.
6 - Depollute with green plants
In a report published in 1989, NASA concluded following laboratory research that plants are depolluting. The inquiry arose out of an issue encountered by astronauts during space travel. Harmful particles (COVs) coming, among others, from the constituent materials of the spacecraft ended up causing various symptoms in the astronauts: breathing difficulties, sore eyes… ADEME carried out its own experiments with the launch of its programme Phytair. It turns out that to have a significant impact on the air quality of a room, it’s not 1 or 2 plants that will do the trick, but a whole forest!
So there are quite easy ways of reducing indoor pollution, with a little upkeep, healthy hygiene habits and wide open windows!