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Why It’s Not Healthy to Ignore Indoor Air Quality

Why It’s Not Healthy to Ignore Indoor Air Quality

If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to indoor air quality. You’re more worried about outdoor air problems like ozone alert days.

But, what if you learned that your indoor air quality really matters to your health? That indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air?

Admit it. You’re skeptical.

But it’s true. Check out these facts because you owe it to yourself and your health.

The Facts About Indoor Air Quality Problems

  • Indoor air typically has considerably more pollutants than outdoor air (source For example, tests show that formaldehyde measures 20 to 200 times higher indoors compared to outdoor air. It’s a bit staggering to think about, isn’t it?
  • The most prevalent pollutants are Volatile Organic Compounds or VOCs.
  • Where do these VOCs come from?
    • carpets
    • plywood
    • perfumes
    • air fresheners
    • cleaning products
    • fabrics
    • mattresses
    • paint
    • solvents
    • lacquers
    • upholstered furniture
    • foam insulation
    • particle board
    • adhesives

Admit it. You’re surprised at some of the items on the list like air fresheners or your upholstered furniture. And, perfume? It’s really disappointing to learn that perfumed products release VOCs.

  • Formaldehyde is the most prevalent VOC pollutant in your home.
    • Since the 50’s, formaldehyde has been a basic material used in particle boards and plywood.
    • According to estimates, 85% of wood materials have adhesives containing formaldehyde.
    • Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
  • Formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds are more prevalent in new construction.
  • VOCs from common indoor materials and products result in increased risk of asthma, pulmonary infections, and allergies.
  • Some chemicals may have health impacts at extremely low levels.
    • Studies have found that exposure to very small traces of VOCs in homes and schools can disrupt the endocrine system (hormones), gene activation, and brain development.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality and Breathe Easier

Before you despair, consider the following list of ways to improve your indoor air quality:

1. Open the windows

That’s right. To improve your indoor air quality, simply open your windows 15-30 minutes a day.

2. Use plants

Plants can absorb VOCs. According to Dr. Bill Wolverton an Environmental Scientist, plants can be used effectively to reduce VOCs. You’ll need two plants in 10-12” pots per 100 sq ft. It’s a lot of plants, so it may not work for every room. But, it’s a good option if you’ve just installed new flooring or furniture in your family room. You could put 3-5 plants in that room.

Want more information? Check out Wolverton’s book “Plants: Why You Can’t Live Without Them”.

  • Here are the top plants to buy based on the type of VOC you want to remove and the amount of sunlight required:
    • English Ivy
      • Thrives in low sunlight
      • Absorbs formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
    • Peace Lily
      • Adapts well to low light but is poisonous to pets
      • Rids air of the VOC benzene (paints, furniture wax, and polishes) and acetone (electronics, adhesives, and some cleaners)
    • Lady Palm
      • Tree-like species
      • Targets ammonia (cleaners, textiles, and dyes)
    • Boston Fern
      • One of the most efficient air purifying plants for formaldehyde according to study published in HortScience
      • Requires moisture and humidity to thrive
      • Removes formaldehyde (carpeting, curtains, plywood, particle board furniture, and adhesives)
    • Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue
      • Thrives in low light
      • Lowers carbon dioxide and rids air of formaldehyde and benzene
    • Spider Plant
      • Easy to grow
      • Reduces formaldehyde and benzene

3. Use air cleaners/purifiers

The right air cleaner can effectively remove VOCs like benzene and formaldehyde. And, it will also remove 99.97% of airborne particles like dust, pollens, mold, pet dander, viruses, and bacteria.

Not all air cleaners eliminate VOCs, so read everything you need to know about air purifiers before purchasing. Austin Air makes a highly rated air cleaner. Learn more about the best rated Austin Air HealthMate Plus air cleaner. It’s whisper quiet and you’ll love how clean and fresh your home will smell.

4. Install drywall that absorbs VOCs.

AirRenew drywall absorbs VOCs for 75 years even when finished and painted with most paints up to 25 coats. It works by capturing the VOCs, converting the VOCs into inert compounds and safely storing the inert compounds within the drywall/gypsum board. It also provides enhanced moisture and mold resistance.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Fortunately, UL Environment validated the drywall and Greenguard Indoor Air Quality certified it. Both reputable and worthwhile certifications. For more information, go to

Unless you are renovating or building new, you may not be able to redo your entire home, but it could make sense to do the bedrooms and nursery.

5. Reduce the sources of the VOCs.

Well, this one is obvious. If you reduce the sources of pollutants, then you don’t have to spend so much time cleaning up.

But, how, and where do you start?

A great place to start is by signing up for the 12-week email series called The Zen of Pure Living. Each week, you’ll cover a different topic.

The emails take about 5-6 minutes to read. If you’re a real overachiever, you can click on the “learn more” links within the emails, but it’s not necessary to get the facts you need. And, most importantly, you’ll get a short list of next steps.

Try one or two of the suggestions. You don’t have to do them all. Any step toward reducing indoor pollutants will help you.

Sign up today! You’ll be happy you did. 

Please share this!


NewScience UL – Indoor Air Pollution Overview 2014

Kim, Kwang Jin, Jeong, Myeong Il, Lee, Dong Woo, Song, Jeong Seob, Kim, Hyoung Deug, Yoo, Eun Ha, Jeong, Sun Jin, Han, Seung Won, Kays, Stanley J., Lim, Young-Wook, Kim, Ho-Hyun. Variation in Formaldehyde Removal Efficiency among Indoor Plant Species. HortScience, 2010; 45: 1489-1495

Birnbaum LS, Staskal DF. 2004. Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 112(1): 9 – 17. January 2004.

Bornehag CG, Sundell J, Weschler CJ et al. 2004. The association between asthma and allergic symptoms in children and phthalates in house dust: a nested case-control study.Environ Health Perspect 112(14): 1393 – 1397. October 2004.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2005. Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 2005. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atlanta, Georgia. 2005. Available online at Search for Exposure Report.

Mendell M. 2007. Indoor residential chemical emissions as risk factors for respiratory and allergic effects in children: a review.

Indoor Air Journal 17: 259 – 277. August 2007. Available online at abstract.00025549-200708000-00002.htm

Waldman, P. 2005. Levels of risk. Common industrial chemicals in tiny doses raise health issues.The Wall Street Journal. July 25, 2005. New York, New York. 2005.

Wilson PM, Chia DA and Ehlers BC. 2006. Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation. Prepared for The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and The California Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials. California Policy Research Center. Berkeley, California. 2006. Available online at

Zajac L, Sprecher E, Landrigan P et al. 2009. A systemic review of US state environmental legislation and regulation with regards to the prevention of neurodevelopmental disabilities and asthma. Environmental Health. 8:9. March 26, 2009. Available online at