Something in the Air: Why Poor Indoor Air Quality Could Be Affecting Your Health

7 mins

If you wake up with a stuffy nose or get frequent headaches it could be a sign that the air in your home is filled with allergens, but breathe easy there are solutions

In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air in our homes can be more seriously polluted than outdoor air.  In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indoor air quality can be five times more polluted than outdoor air, even rising to 100 times in some cases.

This is especially the case in the UAE, where people spend a large proportion of their time in buildings in which air is constantly recycled through air conditioning vents, vents that may not be as clean as you think. When it’s considered that on average globally people spend up to 87 per cent of their time inside buildings, this makes air pollution a pressing problem

‘The air inside the typical home is filled with invisible yet harmful pollutants that can trigger illnesses such as asthma, allergies, headaches, infections, and respiratory conditions’

‘Generally, the air quality index in Dubai shows higher readings than less polluted areas but usually on par with many big cities,’ explains Adrienne Doolan, CEO, of GreenTouches, an eco friendly cleaning products business in the UAE. ‘This is due to many reasons, the sand particles in the air, the desert climate, exhaust fumes from truck and cars, construction, and manufacturing.

dirty indoor air conditioning unit
Air conditioning vents are often neglected exacerbating the air pollution problem

‘Unfortunately, it is difficult for us to see pollution in our indoor air. The air inside the typical home is filled with invisible yet harmful pollutants that can trigger illnesses such as asthma, allergies, headaches, infections, and respiratory conditions. We can define bad smells and treat them accordingly, but unless we see mold or neglected AC systems, it is difficult without an air monitor to see indoor air pollution.’

Dirty Air Donors

Some of the major contributors to indoor air contamination are products many of us use on a daily basis in the home including traditional cleaning products, personal care products (especially spray deodorants), synthetic furnishings and carpets, neglected air conditioning units, tobacco smoke and conventional building materials such as paints and glues.

Even unlikely culprits cause indoor air pollution. Mass produced scented candles loved by so many, can be bad for indoor air quality. Studies have shown that the synthetic fragrances used in making candle scents usually contain phthalates – a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable. As the candles burn, phthalates are released into the air and can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. When the phthalates enter the bloodstream, they can exacerbate allergic symptoms and asthma and alter hormone levels.

candles and diffusers on a table
Indoor air fresheners such as scented candles actually increase air pollution

The link between some common indoor air pollutants and health effects is very well established. Air pollutants have been proven to cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat as well as the respiratory system resulting in illness, fatigue, and poor sleep. You may feel headaches, dizziness, blocked sinuses or notice increased allergy symptoms, and constant illness as well. Dust mites, mold, pet dander, tobacco smoke, cockroach allergens and other ‘asthma’ triggers can increase asthma attacks with continual exposure.

So, creating a good air quality environment in your home is key to long-term health.

Indoor Air Solutions

While plants have less horse power than electric air purifiers, they are a natural, cost effective, partial solution for air pollution in the home. An often cited NASA Clean Air Study from 1989 did find that some indoor plants can reduce indoor air pollutants, more recent studies however have shown that they do so at a rate too slow to make a real difference.

indoor plants  hanging in baskets
Indoor plants are a natural but only partial solution for indoor air quality

Air purifiers – a portable filter system that suck in air, filters it through multiple stages and then releases clean air back into the room, is a more obvious solution. While there are many types and sizes, the sole purpose of these filtering systems is to reduce harmful pollutants and airborne particles in the air thereby reducing the chances of health issues.

Some of the benefits of bringing an air purifier into your home include better sleep quality, a decrease in airborne diseases, relief of asthma symptoms and neutralising unpleasant odours.

Here we have selected five great purifiers available in Dubai that will get the job done.

Levoit Smart Air Purifier H13 HEPA

The Levoit Smart air purifier is ideal for the home. With three different sizes this air purifier can decontaminate up to 147Sqm of space two times every hour. It clears particles, allergies, dust, and smoke from the air and is equipped with an H13 HEPA filter – considered medical-grade – making it 99.9 per cent effective. The purifier is quiet and intuitive, automatically sensing the air quality and adjusts accordingly. It can be controlled by an app as well as connecting to Alexa or Google.

air purifiers are an effective solution for indoor air quality problems

BlueAir Air Purifier, Pure 221

The sleek Swedish design of this purifier ensures it is suitable for the home or the office space. Most efficient in large rooms, it is capable of filtering air in a 50Sqm room every 12.5 minutes, successfully removing 99 per cent of pollutants. The HEPASilent feature ensures silent energy efficient operations that capture allergens, mold, dust, pet dander, smoke particles and pollen. Equipped with a carbon filter it absorbs light home aromas from cooking, smoking and pets too.

Dyson Cool Air Purifier

The tall, sleek, and bladeless design of Dyson is the picture of futuristic living. Equipped with H13 HEPA and carbon filter this purifier can clear out dust, pet dander, mold spores, harmful bacteria, and VOCs – volatile organic compound gases that are emitted from products and processes. The 45-to-360-degree oscillation ensures it covers the room with clean air while the 24-hour Air Quality Index displays accurate readings with sensors updating every 12 seconds. The night-time mode dims the display lights and silences the already quiet machine creating ideal sleeping conditions.

LG Puricare Air purifier

The LG Puricare is the crème de la crème of purifiers with its spherical shape, snowflake air holes and sensor lighting. Covering 91Sqm it promises to deliver clean air up to 7.5M in distance and boasts a 360-degree filtration system equipped with sensors for early detection of dangerous air quality levels. Six filter options include Total Dust & Allergy care for fine particles and Total Harmful for smog and airborne chemicals. The Baby Care function also offers air filtering specifically tailored to the needs of babies and toddlers. You can also access the contemporary system remotely from anywhere thanks to the LG Smart ThinQ application.

Philips Air Purifier AC2889/90

Philips has designed an effective air purifier, highly rated for its AeroSense technology which detects any change in the indoor air conditions and auto adjusts the fan to combat the increase in particles. It has three purification modes that trigger auto-powered airflow when specific particles are sensed in the air: Pollution mode, Extra-sensitive Allergen mode and Bacteria & Virus mode. Real time information on your home’s AQI (air quality index) is sent to the app. With the pre-filter, HEPA filter and active carbon filter, pollutants, allergens, odours, harmful gas, and airborne bacteria don’t stand a chance.

A couple of other good air purifiers…

Xiaomi Mi Air purifier 3H: The H13 HEPA filter clears out most irritants, and the modern looking machine is ideal for smaller spaces up to 45SqM.

Honeywell Air Touch UI Air Purifier HC000023: The Honeywell purifier has a built in VOCs sensor to monitor air and effectively cleans spaces up to 100SqM.

Maybe an air purifier isn’t something you had on your ‘to buy’ list this year, but after reading this, perhaps it should be now.

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