Due to the wildfires, the air quality in Portland and other towns has been “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” according to the Air Quality Index. Actually, it is the worst in the world according to the world’s major city air quality ranking.
We have not been able to open our windows for almost a week now, and I started to wonder how can I create “clean air” without opening the windows?
I did a little research and here are some amazing and interesting finds:
The EPA website gives great insights into how wildfires affect indoor air quality.
But what else affects your indoor air quality?
Have you ever heard of VOCs, Volatile Organic Compounds? Honestly, I have never come across this term until now.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gasses that enter the air through the routine use of a wide variety of household products, from paints and pesticides to arts and crafts supplies, household cleaners, beauty products (Axe is one of the worst offenders), and even from appliances like microwave and toaster, or simply by stir-frying your vegetables for a healthy dinner. A fun and interesting read is The Hidden Air Pollution In Our Homes article where a group of scientists tested indoor VOC levels while preparing for Thanksgiving dinner.
Some VOCs may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.
So, what can we do to create cleaner air while we cannot open our windows? Here are some ideas to try:
1. Eliminate products that contain pollutants and harmful chemicals. Replace your cleaning and toiletry products that contain harsh chemicals with environmentally friendly ones, that cause no harm to humans or animals. See the EWGs Guide to Healthy Cleaning list.
2. Use exhaust fans to isolate the pollutants. While cooking I am leaving the fan on for a longer period of time and I am putting my toaster next to the range hood. (Did you read the article about testing VOCs while cooking? Then you know what I am talking about.)
3. Keep your house clean. Most household items generate dust or trap them (couch, carpet). Keep all areas as clean as possible by dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and keeping your kitchen and bathroom clean. Use a vacuum with HEPA filter to avoid blowing dust back into the air, and use non-toxic cleaning products.
4. Check the ducts as debris and dirt can build up and you do not want that to transfer back to indoor air.
5. Are your air filters clean? Check them regularly as dirty air filters are a major contributor to poor indoor air quality.
6. Consider using an air purifier. Activated carbon filters are needed in order to remove gas, odors, and chemicals. Advanced technology enables some new air purifiers to capture and kill even small pathogens like bacteria, viruses, pollen, smoke, animal dander, and other pollutants. Make sure to check the product for what it is removing from the air and your room size.
7. Use bathroom fans and/or a dehumidifier. Mold is among the common sources of air pollutants in indoor environments and can create serious health problems.
8. Should you get some house plants? I was a little (actually, very much) disappointed by the article
in National Geographic, that busted the myth that plants help purify the air in your home. Well, they proved that the plants clean the air a little, but you would need a rain forest in your home to make a significant difference. Regardless, I take any little help to purify the air, so I do have quite a few house plants, which are not only a great addition to the home décor but are also can be calming.
9. Air conditioning is not just a great way to cool your house down, but it actually circulates healthy air and offers ventilation too. Make sure you regularly replace the filter.
10. Scale back your furniture. When you declutter, the more air can flow.
11. Open all the doors in the room that lead to other spaces for a significant improvement of airflow. Otherwise, the polluted air is trapped in a small area.
12. Turn on your ceiling fans or table fans. When you turn your ceiling fan on, it prompts air movement and circulation of air between the top and bottom sides of your room.
13. Diffuse essential oils. Thieves essential oil by Young Living, which is a blend of Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary, can boost your immune system, have antimicrobial properties, can help with nasal congestion, and can be energizing and uplifting your mood. You can learn more about this favorite blend of mine in the Thieves essential oils article on the “Health Line” website. If you want to try diffusing essential oils, I recommend reading your diffuser’s instructions, but most will use 4-6 drops of essential oils. Some diffusers have a 1-3-6-hour timer on them. I recommend diffusing for 30-60 minutes, then turn it off for an hour, and turn it back on.
14. Himalayan Salt Lamp purifies the air and relieves stress by releasing negative ions that trap air pollutants. The lamp absorbs dust and purifies air (according to the package information). The salt lamp can also feel soothing, calming, and relaxing.
Most of these tips are fairly cost-effective and can help you create better air quality in your home until we can open our windows again to get fresh air from outside.
Note: These pictures were taken outside and inside my home.
Do you have other tips to share?