Prima (UK) - - Best Of Health -


In­door air can be up to 10 times more pol­luted than that outdoors, even when tak­ing into ac­count pol­lu­tants in towns and cities. At least 9,000 deaths in the UK ev­ery year are at­trib­uted to in­door air pol­lu­tion. Sources of pol­luted air in­clude smok­ing, faulty boil­ers, gas cook­ers and heaters, as well as chem­i­cals from new fur­ni­ture, air fresh­en­ers and clean­ing prod­ucts. What­ever the weather, open win­dows reg­u­larly and, if you are prone to al­ler­gies, in­vest in an air pu­ri­fier. Try Homedics To­tal­clean Air Pu­ri­fier AP25, £149.99.


Who can re­sist a can­dle? But choose beeswax or soy ver­sions, which are non-toxic when burned. To keep things even more nat­u­ral in the home, try reed dif­fusers in­stead of air fresh­en­ers, as some con­tain harm­ful ph­tha­lates. One study linked these chem­i­cals to dis­eases such as breast can­cer, as well as male in­fer­til­ity. Al­ter­na­tively, air the room of­ten. Soft fur­nish­ings such as cush­ions and car­pets har­bour dust mites, which can cause skin ir­ri­ta­tion, wheez­ing and a runny nose. Swap car­pets for wooden floors if you can and dust with a damp rag to avoid stir­ring up mites.

Wood smoke from wood-burn­ing stoves pro­duces gases and mi­cro­scopic par­ti­cles that can reach deep into the lungs and pos­si­bly other or­gans. Open fires are worse, but both cause more air pol­lu­tion than gas, elec­tric­ity or oil.


Dust mites love a nice, warm, hu­man bed, and since we spend a third of our time slum­ber­ing, we’re likely to be in­hal­ing plenty of dust mite al­ler­gens. It’s im­pos­si­ble to rid your home of all mites, but you can re­duce them by avoid­ing wool blan­kets and us­ing cot­ton sheets and du­vet cov­ers that can be washed at 60°C. Dust mites hate dry and cold air, so try to air the house when­ever pos­si­ble.


Hum­ble house plants can ab­sorb tox­ins and cleanse the air, ac­cord­ing to a study by NASA. Try aloe vera, spi­der plants and peace lilies, which in­crease oxy­gen by ab­sorb­ing harm­ful tox­ins, in­clud­ing car­bon monox­ide and formalde­hyde. Peace lilies can im­prove in­door air qual­ity by 60%.

‘In­door air can be up to 10 times more pol­luted than that outdoors’


Mould spores from damp ar­eas – such as bath­rooms and kitchens – and even left-over food can in­flame the air­ways, caus­ing nasal con­ges­tion, wheez­ing, chest tight­ness, cough­ing and throat ir­ri­ta­tion. Lev­els rise in the au­tumn, es­pe­cially dur­ing wet, mild weather. Ven­ti­late the house fre­quently and clean mould from sur­faces. Don’t dry wash­ing on or above ra­di­a­tors, as this can in­crease mois­ture lev­els by 30%, cre­at­ing the per­fect breed­ing ground.


Wet tow­els raise hu­mid­ity lev­els, which causes mould.

(See House­hold Mould, be­low.)

To pre­vent mould, open the win­dow and dry shower cur­tains af­ter show­er­ing or bathing, and wash shower cur­tains ev­ery month. To re­move mould stains, soak cur­tains in a weak bleach so­lu­tion, then rinse thor­oughly.

Be wary of us­ing bleach with­out ven­ti­la­tion. A study linked its use to a 32% higher risk of get­ting lung dis­ease.


House dust mites are found in all UK homes and live mostly where they find mois­ture from our breath and bod­ies (see Bed­room, left). We be­come al­ler­gic to them when we suf­fer a hy­per­sen­si­tive re­ac­tion to pro­teins in their ex­cre­ment. Symp­toms in­clude res­pi­ra­tory pas­sage prob­lems sim­i­lar to hay fever and asthma. An allergy can also ag­gra­vate eczema, caus­ing fa­cial eczema that can be dif­fi­cult to treat.


Many ev­ery­day clean­ing prod­ucts, such as oven clean­ers, pol­ish and air fresh­en­ers, con­tain VOCS (volatile or­ganic com­pounds), which can cause asthma and other breath­ing prob­lems. Switch to prod­ucts con­tain­ing nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents, such as Tinc­ture All Pur­pose Cleaner, £7.50, John Lewis & Part­ners.

Mould ac­cu­mu­lates on fridges. Clean them well, es­pe­cially around the seals, and al­low to dry. Food that goes mouldy isn’t only bad to eat, but re­leases mould spores into the air. Check foods that go mouldy quickly, such as bread and fruit, and dis­pose of them if nec­es­sary.

Fry­ing foods with gas pro­duces higher lev­els of fumes than cooking with an elec­tric hob, ac­cord­ing to re­search. Cooking fumes have been linked to lung can­cer, as well as can­cers of the blad­der and cervix. Al­ways use an ex­trac­tor fan and open win­dows where pos­si­ble.


For pet lovers, there’s noth­ing nicer than cud­dling up with a beloved cat or dog, but dan­der (dead skin cells) from your pet can cause nasal con­ges­tion, sneez­ing, asthma and itchy eyes. Re­search also sug­gests that you could catch a nasty dose of norovirus (win­ter vom­it­ing bug) from your dog. Bathe dogs fre­quently, wash pet bed­ding

of­ten and vac­uum car­pets daily.

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