Just how healthy are the homes we live in?
Since I posted about Oliver Heath’s principles for a healthier, happier home recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about one of the sensory aspects that I didn’t expand greatly on – air quality.
It’s been a huge topic in the news of late, and while many of us worry about air pollution when we’re travelling around the city, its fascinating that we rarely consider how much pollutants in the air inside our homes can affect us, especially given that as a predominantly urban dwelling population we spend a ridiculous 90 percent of our time indoors!
According to the World Health Association (WHO), air pollution is the single biggest environmental risk to human health, and the estimated cause of 7 million premature deaths and cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart disease and cancer. Did you know that exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to a wide range of diseases, including acute and chronic respiratory conditions, lung cancer and ischemic heart disease, and can also be a key trigger in the development of asthma, particularly in the young?
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
When you live in an open-plan living space as I do, you often notice that the scent of cooking in one area ends up wafting through to another. But you may not realise that there are also a whole host of other airborne compounds you can’t smell travelling from one area of your home to another as well.
Kitchen cleaning products are a key contributor to airborne pollution in the home, with many containing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma, rhinitis and sensitive skin. Switching to a more eco-conscious cleaning brand, or using your own homemade solutions from soda crystals, white vinegar and lemons, can go a long way to reducing the number of VOCs in your home.
House Dust Mites
Did you know that a significant asthma trigger is an allergy to the droppings of house dust mites? These microscopic creatures like warm, damp places, making beds their ideal habitats – what a scary thought!
The best ways to rid your bedroom of these miniscule mites is by opening bedroom windows daily to ventilate the space, vacuuming regularly with a hepa filter vacuum cleaner and washing your mattress, pillow protectors and bed linen at 60°c.
Now, here’s where I begin to get concerned about my own home health, as I actually live in a flat with windows that can’t be opened..
The building has an internal air filtration system that circulates air throughout and, while not being able to open windows means that external air pollution such as traffic fumes can’t readily enter my home, I also can’t ventilate my bedroom —full of soft furnishings and shaggy textiles— in a manner that would sufficiently rid the space (or my mind at least!) of these house dust mites that I’m sure find my bedroom a wonderful place to call home!
That’s where Blueair come in. A Swedish company committed to raising the quality of life for people everywhere, Blueair manufacture state-of-the-art air purifiers and compact air monitoring units, all with wifi-connectivity and remote app controlling.
Because we can’t live in a hermetically-sealed environment, an air purifier is the perfect solution to help mop up the airborne particles that accumulate as a result of everyday living, with Blueair’s unique technology, Hepasilent™, capturing 99.97% of airborne particles including pollen, dust, pet dander, cigarette smoke, bacteria, viruses and VOCs, right down to 0.1 μm in size!
The easiest way to assess the quality of the air in your home is through a smart air quality monitor such as Blueair Aware, which detects airborne particles, vocs, carbon dioxide equivalents, temperature and humidity, and sends them as real-time updates to your smartphone, via the Blueair Friend app.
VOC’s are measured in parts per billion (ppb), with levels below 222 ppb optimal, and readings over 350 ppb a cause for concern. I set mine up in my open plan living area near my desk, where I spend most of my time working during the day, and my sofa, where i relax in the evening. Over the course of a week, levels in my living area only nudged over 350 ppb once, and generally sit just above 100 ppb throughout the day, well within the ‘excellent’ range and therefore classified as clean – phew!
With the nagging concern over house dust mites potentially making their merry home in my bedroom though, I installed a Blueair Classic 480i** unit in the room and connected it to the app to assess my current air quality. In here, it was the particulate matter I was most concerned about; extremely small particles up to 2.5 micrometers such as fine dust, mite faeces, gases and odors – many of which come from spraying beauty products and burning candles, which I do plenty of in this room. Levels below 10 μg/m3 are optimal, and to maintain wellness, average concentrations shouldn’t exceed 35μg/m3 over 24 hours. It was a complete weight of my mind to discover particulate levels in the room were an average of 6 throughout the week – again, firmly in the ‘excellent’ zone – with VOC levels also well below the 222 pbb optimal benchmark.
Describing their units as “whisper-silent air purification with style,” I’d certainly say that I was both incredibly surprised and impressed with how little noise my Blueair purifier makes. I keep the fan speed down on low which is virtually silent and certainly not an issue to sleep with during the night.
While my local atmosphere is currently excellent I’ll certainly be keeping my air purifier on to ensure things stay that way, and my beautiful and cosy textile collection stays doesn’t become a breeding ground for horrible little mites in the future!
Have you given any thought to the quality of indoor air in your home before?
What are your biggest home health concerns?
This post is a Paid Partnership with Blueair but all thoughts and opinions are my own. All photography © Kate Baxter.