It’s invisible and therefore we don’t think about it. But the air around us at home is full of harmful things: positive ions, moisture, dust, spores, smoke, human skin (gross!), solvents that slowly leak from plastics and paint… the list goes on and on.
But what can we do? In this blog post, I’ll take a look at some of the things we can do to make the air we breathe at home healthier.
Being a closed space means that there is a higher concentration of dust in the air at home than outside. It also tends to be stuffier than the outdoors as the house's materials trap heat. Moisture is also higher because of things like washing machines, kitchens and bathrooms. The most ideal solution for combating issues of dust and damp spores is to open windows wide to get some fresh air in. But depending on where you live, air pollution from cars, bad weather and good old British winter can often make it rather a challenge to just throw the windows open!
Many scientists over the years have studied the benefits of having plants in enclosed spaces. NASA, for example, were understandably interested in this when putting someone into a tiny capsule and sending them to space! The findings show that having house plants helps to clean the air, aids healthy breathing, and even reduces medical issues such as coughs, sore throats and dry skin. They give off oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, they provide moisture into the atmosphere in small quantities which prevents illness, and they even clean pollutants out of the air. According to treehugger.com, here are the best plants for cleaning the air at home:
Peace lily, golden pothos, English ivy, chrysanthemum, gerbera daisy, mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii'), bamboo palm, azalea, red-edge dracaena and spider plant.
Himalayan Salt Lamps
Using a Himalayan salt lamp to improve air quality is a relatively new trend. But actually, Himalayan salt has been used for centuries in the treatment of medical issues including to treat bronchial issues and to clear sinus cavities.
But how do they work? In a nutshell, there are two factors to the benefits of a Himalayan salt lamp for air quality: firstly, they absorb moisture from the air, which can reduce mould and damp from impacting health. And secondly, they emit negative ions. The atmosphere around us is filled with both positive and negative ions. Positive ions have been found to be bad for human health, causing fatigue, anxiety, asthma, migraines, insomnia and depression. They’re given off by electronic devices in the home such as vacuum cleaners, computers, smartphones and microwaves. Having a Himalayan salt lamp on in a room for long periods helps to neutralise these negative ions and improve quality of the air. As an added bonus, they also give off a natural warm glow similar to a sunset which can help the brain to think it is time for sleep.
Dehumidifiers & Humidifiers
A dehumidifier takes moisture out of the air, and a humidifier puts moisture into the air. Usually, the air is drier in winter and more moist in the summer months. Dry air is linked with issues such as dry skin, sore throats and coughs. But moist air also causes respiratory issues because of the increase in mould spores and other irritants. The ideal amount of moisture at home is 30% to 50%. You can purchase a hygrometer to check air moisture and whether you need a dehumidifier or humidifier. If you want to spend a bit more (around £200), there are also now smart home devices that will track air quality and alter their output accordingly.
Natural Scent Diffusers
Nobody wants a smelly house, and many of us choose to use pleasant fragrances to cover up nasties from things such as toilets, food and pets. However, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, ozone based air fresheners can cause serious indoor air pollution problems. With manufactured, low grade scents, we are essentially breathing in harmful chemicals into our lungs.
This is why it’s always better to choose a diffuser that uses all natural scents from essential oils. The added bonus is that aromatherapy has been proven to support both physical and mental wellbeing. When essential oils are inhaled, the molecules are absorbed by the body and picked up by the olfactory receptors. These then transmit signals to your Limbic system which is the section of your brain responsible for releasing hormones that impact emotions. Essential oils are known to reduce issues such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, breathing difficulties and toxins in the body.
I am not advocating that any of the above are magic cures for all physical and mental illnesses. But I think it’s definitely worth us thinking about air quality next time we’re not feeling our best. We live in a modern world that’s filled with factors that impact the atmosphere around us, and yet because it's invisible it isn't something we think about as often as perhaps we should.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on whether air quality at home is something you’re thinking about.
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