Spring is a great time for freshening up your home; giving everything a deep clean, doing repairs, and maybe retouching a wall or two – there’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to liven up a room. Spring is also a great time to be thinking about your indoor air quality, and many of these spring activities, especially room painting, can have a hidden effect on your indoor air quality.
One of the most common culprits of poor indoor air quality are the chemicals we use in and around our homes. One of the most obvious ways our indoor air quality can be compromised is through aerosol sprays, scented cleaning agents, and room fragrances. There is a growing number of people who have bad reactions to the artificial scents and chemical agents released into our indoor air quality through products like these. That misty mountain air freshener might be doing more than boosting you morale or making your home feel fresher – it could be releasing chemicals like formaldehyde or petroleum by-products which affect your indoor air quality and ultimately your health.
A 2015 study in England found that plug-in air fresheners were producing “considerable” levels of formaldehyde that were affecting indoor air quality and home environments. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, and is linked to cancer of the nose and throat – the very organs sensitive to changes in your indoor air quality. These fresheners will also affect people living with asthma or other chronic lung conditions, making them more of a danger to your indoor air quality and health than they are a help.
The scents coming from air fresheners and cleaning products are likely to be Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. These are substances form vapor or gas at room temperature and are known to cause indoor air quality problems.
What about that fresh coat of paint in the living room? Commercial home and outdoor paint can be full of harmful VOCs that will affect your indoor air quality. Some, like formaldehyde, are used to help things dry quickly, while others are used to keep it from freezing, or to produce other desirable effects. You’ve experienced off-gassing paint before – that noxious chemical smell affects your indoor air quality for a number of days as the paint settles. But paint emissions can continue to affect your indoor air quality for years – and air flow, which you might think helps to clear any smells, can actually speed up the release of VOCs.
Choosing a bio-based or low VOC paint can help keep your indoor air quality at a high level while walls or objects dry, and keep you and your family’s health safe. Your indoor air quality is improved with these products because they generally contain less volatile VOCs, and more natural materials, minerals, and dyes than commercial products. The extra cost associated with these products will prove invaluable for those with health concerns around their indoor air quality.
As with anything, make sure you do your research before purchasing any products for use around your home this spring. Spring cleaning shouldn’t mean you need to compromise your indoor air quality!