The Role of Plants
Building Biologists always say that ‘Nature is our Ideal’ when it comes to creating healthy built environments.
Although there are many things to consider when it comes to making your home healthy, indoor air quality is by far one of the most important aspects.
We spend up to 90% of our time indoors and indoor air has been found to be up to 5 times worse and as much as 100 times more polluted that outdoor air. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to adverse health effects ranging from allergies, headaches, asthma, respiratory infections, poor cognitive function, weight gain, chronic fatigue to diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease and reproductive issues.
But before you go searching for an air purifier, remember ‘Nature is our Ideal’ principle! You can’t beat PLANTS in helping to naturally filter polluted air. They have only been doing it for billions of years:-))) Seriously, these guys are amazing! Not only do they reduce carbon dioxide and increase oxygen levels, but they also reduce chemical emissions from carpets, floorboard treatments, kitchen cabinets (MDF) and furnishings. In addition, plants help to filter some airborne moulds and bacteria.
And they also work at naturally maintaining an ideal level of indoor relative humidity through a process called transpiration. Peace Lily, Bamboo Palm, Areca Palm, Rubber Plant, English Ivy and Boston Fern to name a few have all been found to be beneficial for indoor air quality.
In addition to introducing plants throughout your home, try these 12 effective strategies for improving indoor air quality:
Naturally ventilate your home by opening windows as much as possible (unless you live on a busy road). Install flyscreens to prevent pollen and other dust from entering the house.
Do not wear shoes inside the home. This can reduce the amount of dust in your home by more than 50%. In addition, introduce a thick pile door mat and get people to thoroughly brush their shoes prior to entry. Replace it every 6 months.
Minimise the amount of cleaning products. Be aware that some so-called ’natural’ cleaners, especially pine- and citrus-based ones can contain terpenes which have been linked to allergic and asthma risks. Choose products with food grade ingredients, environmentally friendly and grey water safe such as Abode cleaning products.
Avoid fabric softeners and laundry products that contain fragrances and optical brighteners.
Don’t use air fresheners, bug & cockroach sprays, incense, scented candles, household cleaning wipes, hand sanitisers and reed diffusers. A clean home should smell like nothing at all!
Get rid of clutter. It accumulates dust, which can become a food source for mould.
Use radiant heat to warm the house (no unflued gas heaters).
Expose new furnishings in warm dry weather outside to enable chemicals to outgas before you bring them inside.
Clean your home with damp microfibre cloths and an asthma-friendly vacuum cleaner that has a motorised head, electrostatic disposable bag and a disposable HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filter, which will filter particles down to 0.3 microns and subsequently prevent dust mites and other particles in the exhaust air from re-entering the room and become airborne. Here you will find a list of a list of allergy friendly vacuum cleaners. The bag should be replaced with each use and the HEPA filter replaced at least every 6 months. The most effective way to reduce dust is to vacuum against the carpet’s fibres taking around 1 minute per square meter.
Monitor humidity levels. High humidity levels (above 60%) may be a sign of water vapour accumulating inside the house, which will encourage house dust mites and mould to thrive and can exacerbate asthma, whereas average humidity below 40% may contribute to exacerbation of eczema. Ideally, they should be within 45% to 55% to prevent allergies. You can monitor relative humidity levels with a simple Hygrometer available from your local hardware store.
If relative humidity levels exceed 60% on a regular basis, consider using a dehumidifier. Make sure to change filters regularly. Alternatively, install a refrigerated air conditioning system (split system).
Don’t use pesticides and other chemicals to kills pests in your home. Opt for more natural alternatives. Check out our Avoiding Pesticides and Keeping your Home Pest-Free Naturally blog for more tips on chemical-free pest control.
These changes can make significant improvements to the indoor air quality. And we should help our PLANTS, after all, they are doing such a great job filtering the air that we breath!
Ideally, carpets (if present) should be removed because they act as reservoirs of dust. Replace these with low allergy floor coverings such as solid timber floors, bamboo, cork, slate, marble or ceramic tiles. You can have rugs made out of natural fibres such as organic cotton, bamboo or hemp as an alternative to carpet as they can be cleaned by beating them outside and exposing to the sun.
Healthier Home one step at a time!