As the COVID-19 pandemic led people to hunker down at home this spring, outdoor air quality improved dramatically in many cities and countries across the world. In April, NASA revealed that satellite data was showing a 30% drop of air pollution over major metropolitan areas in the Northeastern United States. However, the widespread lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders may be having the opposite effect indoors.
In March of this year, Airthings, a Norway-based manufacturer of smart air-quality monitors, noticed that conditions were beginning to deteriorate in many customers’ homes. Between early March and early May, levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increased by 15%-30% in more than 1,000 homes across several European countries, the company says. This recent data from Airthings is a part of a growing body of research that demonstrates how the air we breathe indoors impacts our health. We now know that the air we breathe inside impacts our brains: We think better when we’re breathing filtered air and working in well-ventilated rooms. There’s also evidence that exposure to air pollution and poor ventilation impacts sleep quality. And while indoor air quality is a relatively new area of concern, we already know that high levels of outdoor air pollution is linked to all kinds of health problems, from respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD to heart disease and lung cancer. Although federal regulations in the U.S., including the Clean Air Act (CAA), have spurred dramatic improvements in outdoor air quality by reducing air pollutants, indoor air remains largely unregulated. Many pollutants are now more concentrated inside of our homes, offices, and other buildings than outside of them. “People think the outdoor air in cities is not that great,” says Yifang Zhu, an air pollution researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But usually the indoor air is worse.” In the U.S., we spend, on average, 90% of our lives indoors.This statistic comes from a 2001 study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and while it might seem like an over exaggeration, it probably understates the case, especially during the pandemic when so many people are spending most of their time at home.
Our homes are designed to protect us from the outdoors, but poor indoor air quality can sometimes get in the way of healthy living. This is because modern homes are sealed tight against outdoor elements, air pollutants emitted within our homes can’t escape. As a result, the air inside our homes is often much more polluted than outdoor air. Domestic life – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, using nail polish, burning scented candles, and spraying a little perfume – can make the air in your home a chemical quandary. Or as Delphine Farmer, an atmospheric chemist and associate professor at Colorado State University, dubs it: “indoor smog”. Farmer and her colleagues were among the first to conduct an in-depth study measuring the emissions of everyday household activities, in 2018. “We're in a challenging situation as chemists," she says. "I can now detect a huge number of molecules and I can tell you what is in your home, but we don't yet have enough knowledge to tell you how dangerous those molecules are.” But we're starting to understand how they can affect us. According to Farmer, there is no need to be alarmist, but it's worth being careful. “I like the concept of reducing the chemistry in your home," she says, by "bringing fewer molecules in that can react, using them less, and ventilating when you do."
Here's what that means in practice.
Let in Some Fresh Air
Ventilation is one of the easiest and most effective ways of dealing with indoor air pollutants. When outdoor pollution levels are safer, opening your windows and turning on a fan can release trapped chemicals and gases into the outdoors. The toxins will dilute with the ambient air and give your indoor air quality a hearty boost.
Build Healthy Daily Habits
The biggest indoor air quality offender, literally, by size, is particulate matter: dust, pollen, pet dander, and all the other solids that spike asthma and allergies. Some simple changes in your schedule can go a long way in improving indoor air quality. Allergens can accumulate on your floors, especially if you have rugs or carpet. After vacuuming, spray rugs and carpet with Vital Oxide neutralize allergens on contact. Vital Oxide is colorless, odorless, and free from harsh chemicals. No need to worry about staining or bleaching rugs or carpet, Vital Oxide hones in on allergens while being gentle on everything else. Vital Oxide can also be diluted and used to mop hardwood, tile, and vinyl floors. Along with cleaning the floors, things like dusting regularly, keeping your countertops, sinks, and bathtubs clean, brushing and bathing your furry friends regularly, and doing laundry before the clothes pile up are all easy, achievable things you can do to reduce air pollutants inside your home.
Purify the Air inside Your Home
Even if you don’t have allergies, an air purifier is a great way to battle allergens. Look for a purifier with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, and make sure it's powerful enough for the size room you're putting it in. Marina Vance, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, who collaborated with Farmer on the air-quality study, generally recommends placing a standalone purifier in the kitchen or bedroom.
Reconsider Your Paint
Eliminate Mold & Mildew
Mold and mildew can be a huge contributor of indoor air pollution, and can affect those with asthma and allergies. If mold is growing in your home, you may be able to smell it before you see it. Mold may grow in hidden areas, like under carpet, behind drywall, under wallpaper, or around the bathroom. To remove mold from hard surfaces, clean thoroughly with a scrub brush and rinse with water. Then, spray our mold-busting formula, Vital Oxide, from a distance of 12 inches until visibly wet, and allow it to air dry. Vital Oxide can be sprayed directly on both hard and soft surfaces, or dispersed in entire rooms with a fogging device, to eliminate mold and mildew on a molecular level.
Say No to Smoke
Smoking cigarettes releases dangerous chemicals, like formaldehyde and benzene, into the air and your lungs. If you choose to smoke, the best policy is to always avoid smoking inside your home to protect your loved ones from toxins. If you move into a home where the previous occupant was a smoker, you can use Vital Oxide to destroy any lingering toxic odors.
Other sources of smoke in your home can also decrease your air quality and produce carbon dioxide. Make sure to ventilate properly to release gas and smoke when cooking, using the fireplace, or burning candles.
Synthetic fragrances found in many household products like candles, air fresheners, and cleaning products, can impact those with breathing issues, and may also lead to a number of health issues, including hormonal imbalances and even cancer. Instead of covering up odors with harsh chemicals, look for fragrance-free products, including cleaners, disinfectants, and laundry soap. Try using Vital Oxide to make your home sparkle, while eliminating odors and allergens and killing 99.9% of viruses and bacteria.
Indoor air quality is an essential component of healthy living. Taking a few steps to improve the quality of the air inside your home can do wonders. At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to have created a bleach-free, VOC-free, fragrance-free, allergen-free, non-corrosive solution that’s also an EPA-registered hospital disinfectant. Vital Oxide is gentle and safe for use around kids and pets. Learn more about the science behind our product, as well as tons of great tips on cleaning, eliminating mold and more. If you have any questions, please Contact Us at any time. We’re here to help.