The air we breathe directly impacts our health on a daily basis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 25 million Americans suffer from asthma. That is 1 and 13 people! When you factor in allergy sufferers and individuals with more serious respiratory ailments like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis, you begin to understand how improved air circulation can make a huge difference in some people’s lives.
One major factor that impacts your home’s air quality is air circulation. Depending on when your home was built, there may be materials in your home that you had no idea were dangerous to your health. From the paint used for the interior of your home to new types of flooring and cabinet materials, there are certain elements of your home that may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and could be poisoning you without your knowledge.
VOCs are part of a large group of chemicals that are found in many products and design materials that we use to construct and maintain our homes. These compounds release mostly odorless vapors in a process called ‘off-gassing’. The actual health risks associated with inhaling chemical compounds depend on how much is in the air, how long you are exposed, and how often you are breathing it in on a daily basis.
Common examples of volatile organic compounds that may be present in your home are formaldehyde, methylene chloride, benzene, ethylene glycol, toluene, and xylene. This is just the heavy hitters and part of a much longer list of noxious chemicals that you probably are unaware you’re even breathing in. These VOCs can be found in a wide variety of building materials and household cleaners, including:
- Paint and varnishes
- Caulks and adhesives
- Carpet and vinyl flooring
- Composite wood products
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning products
You can counteract the off-gassing of VOCs and how much they directly impact your health by improving the air circulation in your home. Let’s take a closer look at how air circulation affects your overall health, as well as the quality of your daily life.
Effects of Poor Air Circulation & Decreased Air Quality
Prolonged exposure to low levels of VOCs may lead to chronic health problems, or at the very least could exacerbate existing health conditions like asthma and COPD. Environmental Health Perspectives published a study that suggested poor indoor air quality may lead to slowed cognitive function and impair your decision-making abilities. Other studies have pointed to a whole host of symptoms that may be connected to inhaling high levels of VOCs, that include:
- Eye, ear, nose, and throat inflammation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Worsening of asthma symptoms
- Skin conditions like eczema
- Cognitive decline
If VOCs weren’t scary enough, poor air circulation is also tied to high levels of mold, dust, dander, and aerosol contaminants. Stale indoor air can trigger respiratory problems and allergies which may lead to fatigue and a compromised immune system. Poor air circulation can also result in the build-up of carbon monoxide and radon inside your home which can cause lung cancer in individuals that are exposed over long periods of time.
Sounds pretty bleak, right? Well, not really. Before you get paranoid and think you have to sell your home just to breathe clean air, there are ways to improve the air circulation in your home and enhance indoor airflow.
How to Improve Air Quality & Air Circulation in Your Home
Improving air circulation and ventilation in your home can help contribute to better air quality and provide multiple health benefits. While it may be next to impossible to scrub the air of all allergens and impurities, being proactive can greatly limit your exposure to harmful chemicals and contaminants. Here are some clean-air strategies that you can easily implement to increase air circulation and air quality in your home.
- Keep a Clean Home: This seems like the most obvious way to improve air quality. Keeping a tidy home can really cut down on allergens like dust, dander, and mold. Vacuum your rugs and carpets at least once a week. Using a vacuum that comes equipped with a HEPA filter so it doesn’t recirculate contaminants is helpful as well. Regularly clean bedding, cloth curtains, and upholstery to reduce dust mites and dander.
- Change Your Air Filters: Whether you have a central air conditioner and heating unit or wall units, regularly changing the air filters is huge when it comes to improved air quality and circulation. This will greatly reduce the number of airborne irritants that are being continually recirculated throughout your home.
- Invest in a Quality Air Purifier: While we can’t control the outdoor air quality, we now have the ability to purify the air we breathe inside our homes. Indoor air purifiers have come a long way in recent years. UVC technologies and advanced air filtration systems have done wonders to improve the air quality in American households. Because there are so many to choose from, do your research to find the right air purifier or air filtration system that suits your budget and size of your home. Some companies offer whole-home air purification systems that work directly with your central HVAC unit that circulates filtered air throughout the interior.
- Consider Buying a Dehumidifier: For areas like basements and dens, attics, or lofts, you may get more moisture in the air. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Mold is a very real health risk. To regulate the amount of moisture in damp areas of your home, you may want to consider buying a dehumidifier to place in areas that have decreased air circulation.
- Allow Fresh Air Into Your Home: Open those windows and let the fresh air in. While outdoor air quality is questionable depending on where you live, allowing fresh air in and stale air out is always a simple and free way of removing fumes, contaminated air particles and harmful gasses from the home.
- Install a Ceiling Fan: It may not seem like it, but running your ceiling fans is a simple way to increase air circulation in the home. Keep in mind that you should regularly dust and wash off the blades to your ceiling fans so you aren’t just spreading more dust and mold throughout the room.