10 Ways To Improve the Air Quality In Your Bedroom

Air pollution isn't just something that you're exposed to outside the home. Bad indoor air quality is also a serious problem. The World Health Organization has estimated that no fewer than 4.3 million people every year die prematurely from the effects of indoor pollution. Can you guess the most common culprits poisoning the air quality in your home?

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside your home can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside your home. Given we spend one third of our lives asleep in the bedroom, the quality of air in that part of the house in particular, may have an immense impact on our health. 

The Top 3 Culprits for Air Pollution 

  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Formaldehyde
  • Dust you can't see.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Certain items in your home give off a chemical smell. These items include flooring, paints, fabrics, the textiles used in mattresses. Have you ever suffered a headache, nausea or itchy eyes in a bedroom that has been freshly painted? Then you probably are reacting to the VOCs in the paint.

This is because a compound in those household items vaporizes, or turns into gas, at room temperature. That gas is emitted for several years, usually, until it has all vaporized and gone. The effect is worse at high temperatures or areas with high humidity, so bathroom cabinets in your ensuite or built-in wardrobes could be a particular risk.

Formaldehyde

One particularly harmful pollutant that we've brought into our living spaces is formaldehyde.

Image source

Breathing in formaldehyde at a level of more than 0.3 ppm in the air can have bad effects on the human central nervous system, on lung function, the respiratory tract, eyes and skin. It's also associated with cancer of the nose and lungs in animals, and with birth defects.

Formaldehyde was once mainly known as a preservative for scientific and medical samples, and its pungent smell in high concentrations is familiar. 

Formaldehyde is used to preserve things for science. Image source

Building Products

Formaldehyde is in common use in newly built or renovated homes. You can find it in glues and particle boards where layers of wood or wood chips are pressed together. Do you have wood panelling in your home. What about a kitchen table table top made with particle board? Cabinets in your new ensuite bathroom?

You can also find formaldehyde other household building products like the foam insulation in your roof or walls, wallpapers and paints.

Cleaning Products and Candles 

Look in your bathroom cabinet for formaldehyde containing scented cleaning products, deodorizers and even cosmetics.

You may find formaldehyde in your hair gel. Image source

And some scented candles in other parts of your home also produce the chemical too.

Scented candles may produce formaldehyde. Image source.

Old-Style Trailers and Mobile Homes

It's been observed that formaldehyde is more likely to be present at dangerous levels in structures like trailers and mobile homes where a lot of chipboard-like materials are used in construction.

Ventilation is likely to be worse in trailers than in more conventional and larger homes, and the small dimensions mean that pollutants have less space to disperse in, particularly in winter when homes are kept sealed up. Deodorizers may be needed because of cramped conditions.

It all adds up to a serious issue.

Dust You Can't See

One major source of harmful gases in less developed parts of the world is domestic wood or coal fires, where there's a faulty chimney or none at all. That's not so much a problem in the western world, but westerners have created other worrying indoor sources of pollution.

Invisible dust could accumulate in your home as a byproduct of combustion:

  • A fireplace in your bedroom;
  • The gas or hot water system located near your bedroom​; or
  • Leaving your window open during the day/night with lots of cars or industry nearby.​

Your Mattress Could Be Toxic Too​

​I was absolutely shocked when I read this statistic from gorgeous Dr Axe:

One of the adhesives that hold mattresses together is made from formaldehyde. You can also find boric acid (the stuff you use to kill roaches and rats!), antimony (used in batteries and flame-proofing materials) and PBDE's (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), also used as a flame retardant, inside your mattress.

10 Ways To Improve Air Quality

1

MINIMIZE

Minimize the number and amount of scented products you use, and that includes scented candles, which are major culprits when it comes to formaldehyde.

2

OPEN UP YOUR WINDOWS

Assuming you don't leave near heavy industry or a major freeway, open up your bedroom window to let in some fresh air.

Try to air out your bedroom after using cleaning materials, paint or any other heavily scented product.

3

CHECK YOUR FURNITURE

Check that any furniture you buy is constructed from solid materials like real wood or formaldehyde-free particle board. Or, better still, buy products that are Greenguard certified to emit low volumes of chemicals into the air. 

Alternatively, air out any new furniture you buy for your bedroom e.g. place your new mattress in the sun for a new hours.

Check out UL's Sustainable Product Guide for items that are safe from a air quality perspective and Greenguard or Ecologo certified

4

BUY GREENGUARD OR ORGANIC MATTRESSES

Organic mattresses are made with materials that are free from pesticides, synthetic fibers and toxins. Mattresses with a Greenguard certification have low chemical emissions.

Check out my Buyers Guide to Organic Mattresses or the 7 deadly hazards you can find in your mattress, for more information on buying mattresses that are healthier.

In the My Green Mattress review, we feature 3 affordable mattresses that have been awarded the highest certification, Greenguard Gold.

5

KEEP IT COOL

With gases from formaldehyde stronger in hot and humid climates, keep the temperature in your bedroom cool. This will also help you sleep better! Try HVAC air conditioners or humidifiers. 

6

CHECK YOUR FILTERS

If you have a HVAC air conditioner or air cleaner in your bedroom, check they have the most efficient air filter possible. The better grade air filters will remove indoor airborne particles, both small and large.

7

USE ECO-FRIENDLY PAINTS

If you want to paint your bedroom, use a water-based, low VOC or no VOC paint. Ensure the room is well-aerated when you are painting.

8

USE INDOOR AIRPLUS STANDARDS

The Environmental Protection Agency has created an Indoor airPLUS standard that builders can follow when building a new home. 

You can find out more about Indoor airPLUS by viewing the video below or visiting the EPA website.

9

USE ECO-FRIENDLY PAINTS

If you want to paint your bedroom, use a water-based, low VOC or no VOC paint. Ensure the room is well-aerated when you are painting.

10

BUY HEALTHY HOUSE PLANTS

Buy some house-plants. Research by NASA has shown that certain pot plants are really effective in cleansing the air of pollutants, including formaldehyde. Spider plant, dragon tree (dracaena), English ivy (hedera helix) and money plant (golden pothos) are among the best examples. 

Spider plant for inside your home. Image source

Dracaena. Image source

Is It Worth Buying An Air Quality Testing Kit?

Modern homes are unlikely to be completely air pollutant-free, but there are simple and effective measures you can take to ensure the concentration of the gas in your home isn't at a harmful level. If you have serious concerns, it's possible to get hold of a formaldehyde testing kit, but they aren't cheap.

However, your best option is to focus on prevention by implementing the 10 ways of improving air quality in your bedroom that we have explored in this post.

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