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Indoor pollution: improving the quality of the air in the home



Not everyone is aware of it, but there are also numerous polluting sources inside our homes. We refer to the so-called indoor pollution which, as proven by’World Health Organization (WHO), represents one of the main risks for the human health.

Pollutants and their sources

The substances responsible for indoor pollution can be classified into chemical agents, physical agents and biological agents. The polluting sources come partly from the outside, in the form of outdoor air pollution and pollen, but many of them derive from internal sources, including occupants (humans, animals), dust (ideal habitat for the proliferation of microorganisms), building materials, furnishings and systems (plumbing systems, air conditioners, humidifiers).

The list of pollutants present within the four walls is decidedly large and includes, among many: environmental tobacco smoke (ETS); nitrogen oxide and dioxide (NOx, NO2); sulfur oxides (SOx), carbon monoxide (CO); airborne particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5); benzene (C6H6); formaldehyde (CH2O); asbestos; synthetic mineral fibers; endotoxins and mycotoxins, fungi as well as the randon, natural radioactive gas that tends to spread rapidly in the environment*.

These substances undermine the health of our bodies from various points of view, primarily affecting the quality of the air we breathe in the house.

Indoor pollution: 10 rules to make the home air cleaner

Researchers fromCatholic University have drawn up a useful decalogue for improve air quality in our homes. Here are the ten tips:

  1. Regularly ventilate the home at least once a day, for a minimum of twenty minutes. It is advisable to adopt natural ventilation, through the windows, rather than artificial mechanical ventilation. It is good to use the windows farthest from the streets where cars are driving. In addition, it is preferable to air the house in the afternoon, because the level of particulate matter outside is generally lower than in the morning;
  2. While cooking, it is important to use the hood, preferring those with mechanical fan and filters, which must be replaced periodically. It is advisable to ventilate the home by opening the windows after cooking the food;
  3. Air the house during and after domestic cleaning, washing and ironing activities, or DIY, painting, gluing, use of solvents, disinfectants and / or disinfestants;
  4. Clean the carpets with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a Hepa filter once a week, remembering to replace it at least every six months. Carpets can be a trap for particulate matter and can be a cause of its resurgence. Sofas, mattresses, curtains and fabric furniture should also be cleaned periodically.
  5. The use of air purifiers can be useful for lowering the concentration of particulate matter. However, for their correct use it is essential to provide for regular cleaning of the appliances and periodic replacement of the filters. The same precaution is valid for controlled mechanical ventilation systems, present in high energy class homes.
  6. If possible, do not use air fresheners and fragrances for the environment such as sprays, incense and candles.
  7. If possible, avoid using fireplaces, wood or pellet stoves as the main source of heating. In particular, avoid open system fireplaces or stoves that are unsealed and without air exchange with the outside.
  8. Do not create extreme micro-climatic conditions in homes: check that the temperature and humidity of the air are not excessively high or too low.
  9. Do not smoke in the house. The pollutants emitted represent a risk especially for children, pregnant women and people suffering from respiratory diseases.
  10. Spend time outdoors and walk. In urban contexts it is preferable to avoid busy roads during peak hours and when construction sites are in operation. It is advisable to move around parks, green city areas, woods and countryside.

The Decalogue belongs to the broadest Anapnoi university project (Breathe well to age better) which involves the involvement of researchers from four locations of the Catholic University (Brescia, Milan, Piacenza and Rome), divided into six groups of different scientific fields (environmental physics and solid state physics, sociology, agriculture and medicine). The purpose of the initiative is to evaluate how outdoor and indoor air pollution, in urban and peri-urban areas, is connected to the development of lung diseases in the elderly in order to provide guidelines on behavioral adaptations to reduce risks and promotehealthy aging.

* Source: “Main indoor pollutants and their sources”, portal Salute.gov.it



Video: Indoor Air Quality 101. Understand and Improve the Air in Your Home (May 2021).