Home air, purifiers against indoor pollution

Lpollution in our cities has reached levels of fine dust and nitrogen oxides above WHO-recommended levels (as the report explains Mal’Aria by Legambiente). Nevertheless thinking of “saving” by locking oneself at home is a mistake. In fact, there are many sources of indoor pollution: in addition to smog and pollen that enter through the windows, there are substances produced by humans and animals, substances released by combustion processes such as cooking food, gaseous substances released by construction and furnishing materials, by products for cleaning, from devices such as humidifiers and air conditioners. A real cocktail of compounds, unhealthy for everyone but even toxic for those suffering from allergies and respiratory disorders. So here are the enemies to beware of in the home air of the most normal of apartments.

Windows wide open (even in winter) to improve the air in the house

Indoor pollutants are particularly powerful in winter, when low temperatures lead us to keep the windows closed. No matter how polluted the city is outside, airing the house is the first solution to have better air inside. «We suggest opening the windows for about ten minutes at least twice a day, perhaps not during peak traffic hours. If it is possible, creating current, in order to have a faster turnover», explains Claudia Chiozzotto, environmental expert of Other consumption which carried out a specific survey on the pollutants present in the home by analyzing what a vacuum cleaner can pick up (“Ask the dust”).

The perfect habitat for the life… of mites

Agree Cristiano Caruso, allergist and medical director at the Agostino Gemelli IRCCS University Hospital Foundation: «In our homes the mites find the ideal living conditions. The ideal temperature, which for them is above 20°. And the perfect degree of humidity, also thanks to the reduction of air exchange with the external environment as a consequence of the high-strength fixtures that we all have by now». But all household activities, from the kitchen to the bathroom, produce water vapor. «Not to mention the degree of relative humidity of our mattresses: it approaches 75% due to perspiration and breathing (man produces an average of 300 ml of water per night) and the temperature reaches 22-26°C». Not only. «The nourishment of the mites consists of the skin residues of humans and domestic animalsfrom dandruff to hair».

Molds and micro pollens, enemies for those who are sensitive

Another polluting enemy consists of moulds, which produce very irritating micro-allergens, especially for those who are sensitive. Beware of those that derive from infiltrations or stagnant water, such as in the bathroom. But also those on the ground: whether you have a garden or simply plants in the living room, humidity must always be kept under control, continues Caruso.

Smoke and room fragrances

It is a source of pollution cigarette smoke but also the fragrances released by air fresheners-perfumers for environments. As well as the so-called volatile organic compounds emitted by new furnishings and textiles, electrical and electronic equipment, detergents, glues, enamels, solvents and chemical products in general. Flame retardants are pollutants and are present in all electrical and electronic devices that overheat but also in other objects, such as furniture and furnishings, which are potentially inflammable. But also the perfluorinated compounds (such as Pfas or Pfca), used to coat fabrics and rigid surfaces, which serve to give some properties that we cannot do without now, from the anti-stain effect to waterproofing. The carbon dioxide that is generated when we cook is a pollutant. In short, every room in the house can be a minefield.

Fine powders

And the famous ones fine dust, fine (2.5 micron diameter) and ultrafine (less than 0.1 micron diameter)? I’m not alone in external pollution, due to car traffic, the
combustion of heating and industrial emissions, but can also be found at home. They are inhalable and reach the lower respiratory tract. So they are particularly annoying.

1. How to improve the air in the house? Few detergents and open windows

Here are Chiozzotto and Caruso’s suggestions for improving the air in the home. Some are intuitive but must be put into practice: first of all, open the windows often, even in Milan or Turin, the most polluted cities in Italy. The advice is to mow mainly in the morning, in the hours in which external environmental pollution and car traffic are less, even in winter. Always open the windows after using the stove, especially if fueled by methane (to remove nitrous oxide), when ironing and when cleaning.

Another obvious measure: don’t smoke and don’t allow others to smoke in the house.

2. Humidity, humidifiers, ionizers: what to do?

Another important point to avoid the formation of unhealthy molds is to check thehumidity of the environment, which it must never exceed 40-50 percent.

And if, on the contrary, in the bedrooms the air is dry? Can a humidifier help?

If the air is dry, it is usually because the heating has been turned on too much without air exchange. A humidifier it would only make the situation worse: it could lead to the development of condensation and mold and favor the proliferation of mites. Instead, it is better to lower the temperature and ventilate the room.

Avoid the use of ionizers as they can develop irritating substances for the respiratory tract such as ozone. And also i dehumidifiers in reality they are not of great help as those currently available on the market allow the achievement of the 60% humidity threshold.

3. Cleaning and room fragrances

The maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems is essential. And do not use air fresheners, candles or incense. Clean air is not perfumed air but odorless air.

Better to use few cleaning products, without ever mixing them thinking of enhancing their effects In general, natural detergents or detergents with a known chemical composition, such as ammonia, bleach, vinegar and baking soda, are better. It is advisable never to exaggerate with the quantities and always rinse very well.

Avoid drying laundry indoors in order not to increase the degree of internal humidity. Expose the blankets and pillows and if possible the mattress ai sunrays for a few hours.
Use vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA microfilters (from the English High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance), capable of removing up to 99.5% of 0.3 micron particles) to clean dusty surfaces, mattresses, sofas, etc. The effectiveness of vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters in reducing the concentration of mite allergenic particles improves when used in combination with water filters.

4. Plants, carpets and furniture

Ten plants that purify the air, furnish and are anti-stress

That’s fine greenery at home, some houseplants are also able to improve air quality, but it can also play against allergy sufferers, increasing the concentration of allergens and molds. That’s why it’s important always ventilate the rooms where they live (they also produce carbonic acid) and make sure they are healthy. If the vessels are not well drained, the harm may outweigh the benefit.

Prefer a simple decor, easy to clean, avoid open bookcases, upholstered armchairs and sofas, reduce the number of knick-knacks that accumulate dust. Eliminate complicated carpets and drapes. To maintain the clothes closed in the closet, avoid changing shoes and dusty clothes in the room. Choose plastic or wooden toys rather than plush and fabric (if this is not possible, wash them weekly in the washing machine at temperatures above 60°C or alternatively put them in the freezer for 24 hours).

Place the bed away from the heaters as the heat emitted causes a movement of air and therefore of dust.

4. Air purifiers, how to choose?

Among the possible solutions that are considered to improve the air in the home is the purchase of a purifier (or purifier) ​​for the air: a device that absorbs the air of the room in which it is placed and puts it back into circulation after passing it through a filter. On the market there is not only the much talked about Dyson. A good selection of smart air purifiers for the home is in this gallery. While TOltroconsumo has compared some of them noting that in general the effectiveness in eliminating mold and pollen is good. Also Wirecutter, an authoritative site for reviewing objects of the New York Timescompared a series of air purifiers, decreeing the best of 2022.

Penumologists and allergists recommend the use of these devices, and in particular those who are allergic to so-called inhalants (pollen, dust mites, molds and so on): of course, it is essential that the device has good Hepa and pollen filters.

For those with serious respiratory problems, however, there are also other devices, much more expensive, with naturally superior performance. For example, for severe forms of persistent allergic asthma and for moderate-severe atopic dermatitis, the combination We breathe together suggests the temperature-controlled laminar airflow device Airsonett Air4 (it costs 7 thousand euros, repaid in Sweden, Holland, Norway, Denmark and the UK, not in Italy for the moment). Valid alternatives are Beyond Guardian air, with original technology Active Purecertified by NASA’s Certified Space Technology (3600 euros) e healthPro 100 from IQAir, sold in Italy by Controlsecurity Ambiente (which instead is around 800-1000 euros).

Naturally maintenance of this type of device is essential: the substances deposited on the filter in fact, if not cleaned regularly, in turn become a source of pollution. In short, even our home sweet home, alas, is a jungle.