The air in your home is the air that you breathe.
It can contain mould spores, bacteria, dust mites, animal dander, combustion gases and microscopic particulates that are invisible to the naked eye, as well as chemicals from the building materials, finishes and furnishings.
Since the 1970s there has been a huge increase in the use of synthetic chemicals in every aspect of life, and this includes our building materials, paints, finishes, furnishings and cleaning products. The chemicals emit gases into the indoor air we breathe – called off-gassing – combining into an unknown cocktail of gases inside our homes, which can be very toxic even if we cannot smell it. It can be the cause of itchy eyes, runny noses, respiratory irritations and coughs, and breathing problems.
The increase of synthetic chemicals in our homes is also thought to be the cause of a marked increase in childhood asthma.
A study in 2012 by the University of Sheffield found that the air we breathe inside our own homes can have pollutant levels three times higher than our outdoor environment, even in city centres and along busy roads, and albeit with different pollutants.
This increase in synthetic chemicals also coincides with the trend for sealing our homes against draughts to improve heating efficiency. Whilst this is good for energy saving, it has created unventilated indoor spaces and a build-up of toxins with no adequate fresh air to breathe.
This can be achieved through a balance of heating, insulation and ventilation methods and selecting healthy alternatives for:
- building materials, paints and finishes
- furniture, furnishings and flooring
- cleaning, laundering and bathing products
which avoid the following common indoor air pollutants:
Common Indoor Air Pollutants
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – carbon based chemical vapours released from many materials, paints, finishes and furnishings.
Formaldehyde used in glues, widely used in wood particle boards
Mould and bacteria
Animal dander, dust and dust mites
Microscopic fibres from insulation
Foams or plastics containing PVC, bisphenol A, phthalates or styrene.
Pesticides, fungicides, and other biocides.
Fire retardants, stain resisting finishes, and moth proofing.
Combustion gases from incorrectly ventilated gas stoves and boilers.
The air inside your home can be highly toxic even if you cannot smell it.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the UK, after smoking. It is a naturally occurring odourless colourless radioactive gas that seeps up into our homes from the rocks and soil underneath, and is more prevalent in certain parts of the UK. It can accumulate internally if there is no ventilation to prevent it. It can also be emitted from plasters and stones such as granite counter tops.
The synthetic perfumes that we can smell in our cleaning, laundering and bathing products, are not regulated for their content, and some are known to be remarkably toxic.
Synthetic fabrics and finishes can contribute to a high electrostatic in the air. This allows toxic microscopic particulates to remain suspended in the air which makes them more easily inhaled into your lungs.
Banned pollutants commonly found in existing buildings:
Lead in paint has been banned since 1992. Old paint becomes a hazard when chipped or flaking, or when sanded-off prior to repainting which creates lead dust, in which case professional removal is recommended. However, it remains inert if undisturbed.
Asbestos is a class 1 carcinogen and its use has been banned since 1999. Existing asbestos can be found in numerous elements of older buildings. If disturbed, it can give off microscopic fibres which are small enough to be inhaled and damage lung tissue. Professional removal is required.
Creating a Healthy Indoor Air in your home
It is much easier to create a healthy indoor air quality when selecting new materials, finishes and furnishings, as a preventative approach, rather than sourcing and removing which of your existing materials may be toxic.
See Materials, Finishes and Furnishings for more information.
Reassurance that you can inhale a lung full of healthy air!
Includes recommendations for non-toxic materials, paints, finishes, flooring, furnishings and cleaning products, together with methods of insulation, heating and ventilation.
Includes checks as necessary for elevated levels of toxic indoor air pollution, and advice on how to improve the air that you breathe.
Being able to breathe healthy indoor air is an essential aspect of a healthy bedroom, to support a good night’s sleep.