Preventing Pollution at Home

Preventing Pollution at Home

Home pollution

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Most people have a similar evening routine: get home from work, cook dinner, put your feet up in front of the telly. Sounds harmless, right? Well, depending on how you get home, what type of oven you have, and whether you’re using green energy, you could be increasing the amount of pollution in your home. 

There are two types of household pollution: indoor and outdoor. We’re all familiar with outdoor pollution: the blankets of smog, along with the CO2 emissions caused by cars, factories, and energy usage.

Indoor pollution, on the other hand, is a little more subtle. It refers to chemical, biological, and physical contamination of indoor air. This can include asbestos, mould, chemicals, or even dust. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 3.8 million people a year die from exposure to indoor and outdoor household pollution. Naturally, our mind jumps to air pollution, but there’s more to it than that – indeed, household pollution can be anything from pollution caused by your car, to water pollution caused by the cleaning chemicals in your kitchen.

But how exactly can you prevent such pollution? In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of household pollutants, and venture through the various ways you can make your house a healthier home to live in. 

Indoor pollution

Cut your car emissions

Type of pollution: outdoor

This is one of the most obvious examples of outdoor household pollution. In 2018, transport accounted for a third of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, and the majority of this came from road transport. All of these toxic fumes contribute to the air pollution that smothers cities across the world in smog.

But how does this affect you? 

  • Short-term effects: Air pollution can cause illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. On top of this, it can also cause other forms of discomfort, such as irritation to the nose, throat, eyes, or skin. 
  • Long-term effects: Worryingly, air pollution can also lead to heart disease, lung cancer, and certain respiratory diseases. It can also cause long-term damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs. Some scientists suspect air pollutants can even cause birth defects.

So, by cutting down on the amount you use your car, you can help make the air in your neighbourhood clean. And if you want to go that extra step further, opt for an electric car!

Go green on energy

Type of pollution: outdoor

There is an endless list of ways you can save energy in and around your home. By making your house more efficient, you can cut down on carbon, and maybe even save some money in the process. 

Currently, 85% of homes are heated by carbon-heavy natural gas. If your home is using this carbon-churning energy, it’s time to switch to green. 

According to Which?, the top green energy suppliers in the UK are Octopus Energy, Ebico, Bulb, So Energy, and Tonik Energy all of whom source their energy from 100% renewables! 

Get your boiler serviced annually

Type of pollution: outdoor

Put simply, the more efficient your boiler is, the less harm it will do to the environment. Getting your boiler serviced annually will reduce the amount of pollution your household emits. This will also help detect any faults, and prevent carbon monoxide from building up inside your house. 

Need more of a reason to get your boiler serviced? Well, keeping on top of any boiler malfunctions will  ensure it isn’t wasting fuel (or money). 

In fact, if everyone in the UK with gas central heating installed a more efficient boiler, such as a new condensing boiler, we’d save over 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. This is the equivalent of the annual emissions of over 2 million homes!

Reduce the chance of carbon monoxide leaks

Type of pollution: indoor

Carbon monoxide can be lethal. Its lack of smell, and inability to be seen or heard, are why it’s often labelled as the ‘silent killer’. In the UK alone, it leads to around 60 deaths each year. 

One way to tackle this imperceptible menace is to install a carbon monoxide detector. You should also keep an eye out for certain household appliances that can emit carbon monoxide, such as:

  • Boilers
  • Fires (gas and solid fuel)
  • Furnaces
  • Gas or kerosene heaters
  • Water heaters
  • Gas tumble dryers
  • Charcoal grills
  • Wood stoves
  • Gas cooking stoves 

Reduce damp and mould 

Type of pollution: Indoor

Mould might not seem as pressing an issue as the catastrophic climate crisis unfolding beyond your four walls, but it can still cause serious harm. If mould goes undetected, it can irritate pre-existing respiratory problems, or even cause them

How can you avoid this mouldy fortuity? Well, you can start by keeping the humidity level in your home between 30% to 50%, which you can measure using a hygrometer. Maintaining humidity can be as easy as letting your rooms breathe: crack a window, invest in a dehumidifier, or turn on the extractor fan. 

Ditch the cigs

Type of pollution: indoor and outdoor

We all know smoking is bad – but just how much harm is it causing? 

Well, globally, smoking emits nearly 2.6 billion kg of carbon dioxide and 5.2 billion kg of methane into the atmosphere each year. And on top of that, the annual production of tobacco contributes almost 84 million tonnes of carbon emissions. This is the equivalent of the total national emissions of Peru or Israel, and more than twice that of Wales. 

So what about indoor pollution? Sadly, the figures look just as bleak. In the UK, smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer, and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you’re smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, you might have a level between 3% to 6% carbon monoxide level in your blood. To compare, the average carbon monoxide level in an adult should be less than 2.3%.

So, if you’re partial to a pack of cigarettes (or two), then it’s really time to consider cutting down. Or better still, cut it out all together! By quitting smoking, you’ll not only be reducing your carbon footprint, but you’ll also be giving your lungs a huge helping hand. 

Fueling your fire

Type of pollution: indoor and outdoor

Though your cosy fireplace may seem charming during the gruelling winter, it’s likely to be releasing lots of nasty fumes. 

Wood burners or coal fires can release a substantial amount of carbon monoxide. If you breathe this in, it can seriously reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood – resulting in a toxic dose of carbon monoxide poisoning.

But fear not, you don’t have to get rid of your lovely fireplace just yet. Instead, try some of these helpful tips:

  • Ensure that rooms containing a fireplace are well ventilated 
  • Get your chimney swept to ensure it’s clean and free of blockages
  • Get your fire fitted by a trained, qualified fireplace installer. All gas fire fitters must be on the Gas Safe Register
  • Install a carbon monoxide tester and alarm, and test it regularly to ensure it works
  • Don’t sleep in a room that has an unflued gas fire
  • Choose a gas fire with built-in safety features
  • If you have a stove or open fire, don’t leave ash in there for too long

Kill your cleaning chemicals

Type of pollution: indoor and outdoor

Though they might make your home dazzle with sparkly cleanliness, most cleaning chemicals are extremely dangerous. Cleaning products (like bleach, oven cleaner, and even air fresheners) contribute to indoor and outdoor pollution – in fact, 53% of cleaning products contain lung-harming ingredients.

So what’re your alternatives? Well, again, you can go green! There’s a huge collection of green cleaner brands available nowadays. Even bigger brands, like Dettol, have recently adopted the green approach. Check out the best green brands below:

  • Method – Method’s goal is to combine sleek design with environmentally friendly non-toxic cleaning products. The product range is all-natural, non-toxic, paraben-free, and biodegradable.
  • Ecover – Ecover is the world’s largest producer of ecological products. This brand uses naturally-sourced solvents and agents, as well as eco-friendly packaging. 

Quick shortcuts to cleaner air

As well as cutting out carbon devices, there are a few swaps you can make in your home to give you and your domain a breath of fresh air. 

 

House plants galore

Can you really have too many houseplants? Not only does a leafy addition to your home help freshen up the place, but plants also have many health benefits. Some houseplants even act as natural air purifiers by removing carcinogenic chemicals from the air. 

 

Swap your plastics

Our world is smothered in a perpetual layer of plastic. Modern microplastics have been guilty of destroying habitats, poisoning waterways, and even tainting food.

Take a look around your house. If you see something anything that’s plastic, you can almost guarantee that there is now a metal or bamboo alternative. By opting for more plastic alternatives, you can adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and cut back on waste.

 

Get some eco-candles

If spending your evenings in a candle-lit bath is your not-so-guilty pleasure, we’ve got bad news for you. Most candle brands are made with paraffin, which is petroleum-based and releases benzene, toluene, and soot into the air. So it’s not as relaxing as you thought. 

This is why people are now going for more eco-friendly candles. Beeswax candles are a great alternative, as they don’t release any harmful toxins. If you’re vegan, there are also lots of soy candles available – and as an added bonus, these candles act as natural air purifiers. 

 

Salt lamps

Aside from creating a deep, atmospheric light for your home, salt lamps are said to possess other benefits. 

For years now, people have claimed that these lamps clean the air through a system called hygroscopy, which attracts and absorbs contaminated water molecules from the immediate environment and locks them into the salt crystal.

The Lung Institute, an organisation that provides support for those suffering from respiratory conditions, reported that “some people have found salt therapy to be an effective option for relieving symptoms of lung disease, resulting in easier breathing.”

Other people, however, are still sceptical about whether this system is scientifically viable. Either way, at the very least, you’ve bagged yourself some nice mood lighting.

 

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal can improve the quality of your indoor air by removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), removing odours, and controlling humidity (by removing excess moisture from the air).

While it is used in home and office environments to improve air quality, its most notable role in air purification is in the treatment of flue gas.

Home pollution

It’s time to de-pollute your home!

Once you’ve tried our tips, you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing something sooner. Not only will you have less environmental guilt hanging over you, but you’ll no longer be putting your lungs at risk. 

Around the globe, 77% of people say they want to live more sustainably. Hopefully, we can all move together towards a greener, healthier future. 

Beth Howell Writer

Beth is The Eco Experts’ newbie. She’s keen to use her writing skills, and passion for green living, to help the environment. Whether you’re after a new boiler, or just interested in how solar panels can improve your home, she’s got your back.