Our house is much more than the place where we live, it is our home, our refuge, where we feel protected. To be comfortable and healthy it is essential to create and environment in which the air we breathe in as clean as possible.
Pollution in the home
Pollutants are more concentrated indoors than outside, as infiltrating pollutants from outside combine with a range of pollution sources already found inside the home. Pollution sources at home may include, for example, the inhabitants themselves, or their pets.
Tobacco smoke is one of the most important pollutants in Europe, but others such as water and humidity, which contribute to the development of moulds, fungi, allergens and bacteria, must also be taken into account. Another source of pollution can be found in building materials and furniture, which emit a number of volatile organic compounds that float in the air and can be harmful to health. The chemicals we use for cleaning, air fresheners, pesticides, paints, etc., are also a source of exposure to hazardous particles.
Failure to suitably maintain the property and its fixtures and fittings can also lead to pollution. For instance, radon gas, which is very harmful to health, can infiltrate through cracks in exterior walls.1
How can we measure air quality at home?
Different aspects must be taken into account in order to know the quality of air in our home. The first consideration would be occupants' satisfaction with the air they are breathing, e.g. whether unpleasant odours are perceived, or symptoms related to poor air quality are present.
The concentration of pollutants can also be analysed using a range of methods, such as direct reading through continuous analysis with specific devices, or by taking samples for subsequent study.
There are different types of devices for measuring indoor air quality. They monitor the environment continuously and alert when recommended pollution levels are exceeded. They also advise when it is best to ventilate the house, based on outside air quality. The technology used are:2
- CO2 sensors: measure the concentration of this gas in parts per million (ppm) based on the use of infrared.
- VOC concentration sensors: calculate the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in the air. These can come from various sources, such as cleaning, hygiene or construction products.
- PM 2.5 sensors: fine suspended particles can cause respiratory problems. Laser-type sensors are used to measure their presence in the air.
- Humidity sensors: evaluate humidity and temperature in order to prevent the growth of unwanted moulds and bacteria.
Problems resulting from poor quality indoor air
The World Health Organization estimates that exposure to indoor pollution causes from mild effects on the respiratory tract, such as nasal congestion, sneezing, conjunctivitis, etc., through to systemic effects such as headaches, concentration problems, etc. Chronic respiratory diseases, asthma, muscle pain, seizures, endocrine disruption and many more have been documented among the most serious effects. In short, it has been shown that there is a direct relationship between indoor air pollution and health.3
- Ventilate your home daily.
- Use air filtration and purification systems.
- Don't smoke at home.
- Use the extractor hood whenever you cook.
- NASA4 recommends decorating your home with plants such as devil's ivy, bamboo palm, rubber fig and snake plants, which absorb pollutants from the air.
- Control indoor humidity, keeping it at around 40%. Watch out for water leaks in the roof or walls, and refrain from hanging clothes inside.
- Maintain a suitable, comfortable temperature, especially in those rooms used most frequently.5
- Seek to ensure all furniture materials, paints and fabrics are of natural origin.