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Improving the Air in Your Home

Freshen up your home with these tips on improving indoor air quality

Sick building syndrome

It is perhaps a little known fact that the air inside your home can be up to 12 times more polluted than outside air. Identified in the 1980's, these harmful indoor pollutants have been linked to allergies, eye and skin irritation, asthma, dizziness and nausea (also known as sick building syndrome). According to a 2002 report by World Health Organisation, poor indoor air quality is responsible for 1.6 million deaths a year.

Green clean
Replace cleaning products and air fresheners with natural products such as bicarbonate of soda. According to Janey Lee Grace, author of Imperfectly Natural Woman (Crown House, �12.99), 'bicarbonate of soda is amazing for absorbing odours.' She recommends leaving some in a bowl near particularly smelly areas, like a fridge or bin to eliminate bad smells. However, the easiest and cheapest way to freshen air is to open a window. If this is not possible, Janey suggests adding a few drops of essential oil to water in a plant spray bottle and using this as a room spray.

Reduce chemicals
According to the British Lung Foundation, there are several major causes of indoor air pollution. These include household products (such as aerosols, paints and solvents), formaldehyde gas (given off by carpets and upholstery) and mould and mildew. Frequent exposure to these chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can lead to serious health issues. To reduce the amount of these chemicals in your home, choose carpets made of natural woven fibres and use environmentally friendly paints.

The power of plants
Decorate your home with plants for a cheap and easy way to improve indoor air quality. The University of Georgia conducted a study to test the ability of indoor plants to absorb harmful VOCs through pores in ornamental plant leaves. The harmful air is absorbed into the plant, cleansed, and then sent out again as oxygen. They found that asparagus fern, wax plant, waffle plant and English ivy were particularly effective at this process.
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