How to make your home healthier

Susannah Hickling 17 May 2021

We’ve been spending a lot of time indoors since Covid struck, but could we make our homes healthier?

Open your windows

Illustration of woman opening window

The air circulating indoors is up to five times more polluted than what’s wafting around outside. Pollutants include mould, building materials and products you use around the home. Fine particles can get into the lungs, bloodstream and organs.  Poor indoor air quality has been linked to asthma, COPD and even lung cancer. Keep your home ventilated as often and for as long as possible.

Take off your shoes

Woman taking off shoes

When you come in from outside, you’re tramping all sorts of nasties into your inner sanctum. Beyond the ubiquitous dog mess and chewing gum, your footwear can also carry unhealthy dust from traffic fumes, oils and other harmful chemicals. Keep your slippers by the front door.

Get rid of carpets

Dirty carpet

They harbour germs and pollutants, from dust mites to pet dander to pesticides, catching anything that’s floating in the air in your home – even when you’re assiduous about vacuum cleaning. The materials used to make synthetic carpets and the compounds they emit add to indoor pollution, triggering or aggravating allergic reactions, respiratory and heart problems. Consider wood flooring, linoleum or tiles.

Beware flatpack furniture

Flatpack furniture

MDF in shelving and modern furniture often contains formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) classed as a carcinogen. It’s found in the resin that binds the wood dust and scrap together. Whether cancer-causing or not, formaldehyde has reportedly been linked with itchy eyes, sore throats, wheezing, headaches and runny noses. To avoid your building becoming sick because of MDF, opt for solid wood.

Cut out candles

Candles

Reduce indoor pollution by forgoing scented candles and air fresheners. These release chemicals which turn into our old friend – formaldehyde – when they reach the air. Candles also give off soot, which, again, is not good for our lungs.

Neglect personal care

Body care

I bet you never thought we’d advise you to do that! It’s lovely to look and smell nice, but a 2018 study found that an ingredient commonly found in deodorants, shampoos and lotions, siloxane, gives off emissions comparable in magnitude to traffic emissions and considered harmful to health. Try to restrict your use of these products or opt for ranges that don’t contain them. And it’s a good idea to try to limit hairspray and the amount of perfume you spritz on your skin, as these also emit VOCs and contribute to potentially toxic air pollution in your home.

Curb household chemicals

Household chemical plastic bottles

Perhaps less surprisingly, cleaning products can also contain noxious chemicals, giving rise to asthma or allergies. A Norwegian study found that women who used cleaning products regularly had a greater decline in lung function than those who were less house proud. We’re not suggesting you keep a dirty home, but you might want to go for allergy-friendly products and avoid sprays, which release chemicals into the air and not just onto surfaces.

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