2 Simple Ways To Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

On average, people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, according to Environmental Protection Agency research. While many of us love the simple pleasures in life such as lighting a cozy candle at night or for the aromatic scent, it can be linked to increasing indoor pollution and exposure to harmful byproducts. “Pollution contributes to millions of deaths every year from conditions such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cancer or pneumonia”, states Christa Hasenkopf, the director of clean air programs at University of Chicago. While there are many ways to limit exposure, here are two simple ways to reduce indoor air pollution.

Unfortunately, candles & incense are common sources of pollutants

Nothing sets a cozy mood more than a delicious-smelling candle or slow burning incense. Unfortunately, these simple pleasures can lead to increased levels of pollution in your living space because these combustion sources generate PM2.5, particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter. Not only do candles release PM2.5 into the air, other dangerous pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) are also released by burning candles. These pollutants contribute to indoor air pollution and may worsen respiratory issues, especially in toddlers and the elderly.

PM2.5 - Particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter.

So...what can I do instead?

There are several options for making your house smell good and feel cozy without those dangerous pollutants. These include using electric candles and stovetop potpourris. It’s important to note that while stovetop potpourris are certainly better than a candle or incense, you will likely have some VOC emissions. If you must burn a candle, understand what it’s made of to avoid harmful ingredients like petroleum, and rather opt for a more natural selection like beeswax. Also take into account that it will still produce PM2.5, so try opening a window if it’s a good air quality day. If you have central heating/cooling and a HEPA air filter you can also run your HVAC system on “fan only” mode a few minutes an hour.

Opening windows on clean air days

This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to open those windows every once in a while. According to the American Lung Association, “Increase ventilation by opening doors and windows for 10-15 minutes each day to bring in fresh, outdoor air to dilute the polluted indoor air”. However, it’s important to note that opening windows on bad air quality days can do more harm than good, so be sure to check your location beforehand.

Overall, while candles can create a cozy atmosphere, it’s essential to use them cautiously and consider alternatives for ambient lighting like electric candles and to open the window 10-15 min a day on good air quality days to minimize potential risks to health.

Some additional things to consider that impact indoor air quality:

  • Regularly replacing your HVAC filter
  • Cooking with gas appliances
  • Burning wood (or other solids) in the fireplace
  • Smoking indoors
  • Vacuuming, as vacuums can kick up dust and other particles.

Monitoring your indoor air quality allows you to understand the effects of your everyday activities and make informed decisions to adopt alternatives when necessary.

Brighter days start with cleaner air!


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