Why Indoor Air Quality Matters (+ How To Improve Yours)

After food, water, and shelter, what’s the fourth basic human need? Air. More specifically, clean air.

Despite the turmoil in the EPA under the current government administration, a 2014 article makes it clear that even in the United States, where outdoor air is far cleaner than the most heavily polluted areas of the world—like Gwalior, India, where burning garbage and fossil fuels contribute to high levels of carcinogenic fumes and Zabol, Iran, where naturally-occurring dust storms damage lungs—clean air is harder to find than we think.

Surprisingly, indoor air is sometimes far worse than outdoor air. Products that tout their ability to turn funky into fresh are often the worst offenders, and while a simple air freshener might sound innocent, the damage is often more pervasive than we expect.

What is indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution is often measured as Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and, over the last few decades, IAQ has received more attention as data, like this report, suggests that most people spend 90% of their time indoors, whether at school, work, the gym, home, or restaurants. While few of us will suffer immediate consequences of poor IAQ, certain populations, like children, the elderly, and those already suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, will be heavily affected. 

IAQ is generally used to describe a range of gases, perfumes, and compounds that contribute to the overall unhealthiness of indoor air quality, but the typical offenders include carbon monoxide, VOCs, particulates, and biological particles, which include mold.

What are the effects of indoor air pollution?

1. Poor performance & productivity

A 2004 study found that poor indoor air quality resulted in decreased work performance and productivity by 6-9%.

2. Increased risk of cancer, stroke & heart disease, diabetes, obesity, dementia, & general mortality

A 2016 report by the Royal College of Physicians claims that air pollution has changed over the last 80 years, but not necessarily for the better. As car travel increases, and the incentives for walking and biking decrease, our exposure to harmful pollutants rise. 

3. Asthma & asthma-related issues

Of all the studies done on air pollution and its effects, most point to asthma as one of the most ubiquitous symptoms and disorders. A webpage from California Air Resources cites 6 studies (since the year 2000) on asthma and respiratory health issues following exposure to poor air quality and another 7 on the effects air pollution has on children. One study in particular, by the University of California Berkley, focused on the impact of indoor cleaning products, many of which were found to contain formaldehyde. 

Tips for Good Indoor Air Quality

  • Ensuring our air quality is good isn’t as hard as you might think. Before implementing a few holistic solutions, here’s a list to go through. 
  • Avoid smoking in house, outside of house, or allowing others to smoke near your home
  • Fix water leaks
  • Check for mold
  • Dust regularly
  • Vacuum pet hair regularly
  • Avoid using pesticides, air fresheners, lacquers and paint strippers with VOCs; if you must use paints or sealers, work with a mask and seek good ventilation.
  • Ensure that gas-functioning appliances aren’t leaking
  • Use exhaust fans
  • Avoid all odor-masking products, like artificially-scented candles, air fresheners, etc.
  • Use doormats (both inside and outside) and take off your shoes when entering the home
  • Avoid chemical perfumes and heavily-scented body and hair care products

What else can we do to keep our homes holistically clean?

1. Add more plants

Plants are fantastic. They purify the air, reduce stress levels, and absorb carbon dioxide to produce clean oxygen for better breathing. Adding a few houseplants is easier than you might anticipate, and several varieties, like succulents, require very little care and even less watering. Here’s another list of plants that work to reduce indoor air pollution.

2. Ventilate

Ventilating doesn’t necessarily require the purchase of a machine; rather, open a window and let in the breeze. 

3. Clean holistically

Many of the tips above simply require better cleaning, but the catch is doing so without chemical products. Luckily, making homemade versions of all-purpose cleanerslaundry detergent, and bleach alternatives is economical, too.

4. Essential Oils

Essential oils are endlessly beneficial, and simply using a diffuser can freshen a home while also adding benefits like reduced stress and tension. Tea tree is a particularly good choice for cleaning, too. 


Is your indoor air clean? What methods do you use to ensure better breathing quality for family, friends, and pets alike? Let us know in the comments below!