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How to improve indoor air quality for respiratory health

In the quest for a healthier lifestyle, we often focus on exercise, diet, and mental wellness, but there's one crucial factor we may overlook: how to build respiratory health. Our homes can harbour a cocktail of pollutants and allergens that have a profound impact on this aspect of wellbeing. 

Here, we highlight the vital connection between air quality and health, and explore how to improve indoor air quality at home.

What is respiratory health? 

Respiratory health refers to the wellbeing and proper functioning of the respiratory system, which includes the lungs, airways, and associated structures. The primary function of the respiratory system is to facilitate breathing, which involves the intake of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide. Good respiratory health ensures this process occurs efficiently and effectively.

Understanding the link: respiratory health and indoor air quality

The quality of the air we breathe indoors can directly influence our respiratory health. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a range of respiratory issues, including asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and even more severe conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). When we're exposed to indoor pollutants and allergens, our airways can become irritated, leading to inflammation and exacerbating existing respiratory conditions.

Identifying common indoor air pollutants and allergens

To understand how to improve respiratory health, it's essential to know what we're up against. Common indoor pollutants include:

  • Dust and dust mites: These microscopic critters thrive in warm, humid environments and can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms.
  • Mould and mildew: Moisture-prone areas like bathrooms and cellars are breeding grounds for mould, which can release spores into the air, causing respiratory issues.
  • Pet dander: Even the most beloved furry friends can contribute to indoor air pollution, as pet dander can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Found in household products like paints, cleaning agents, and furniture, plus single-use, disposable materials which have become commonplace in our homes over the past few decades, VOCs can release harmful gases into the air, leading to respiratory irritation. Data on the full impact that VOCs have on the human body is still lacking for the majority of them.

    What is good for respiratory health?

    Fortunately, there are steps we can take to improve the air quality in our homes and support respiratory health:

    Address sources of pollution

    Conduct regular inspections to identify sources of indoor air pollution and take proactive measures to address them. Opt for eco-friendly household products, limit smoking indoors, and consider using indoor plants known for their air-purifying properties. Once measures such as these have been implemented, use indoor air quality monitors to track pollutant levels and make adjustments as needed to maintain a healthy environment.

    Ensure proper ventilation and filtration

    Ventilation is crucial in home design for maintaining a healthy and comfortable living environment. While many homes rely on ‘uncontrolled ventilation’ – air movements through small gaps – this approach can lead to inefficiency. Reducing these gaps improves airtightness and enhances energy efficiency, but controlled ventilation is still necessary. Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) systems offer a solution. These innovative systems extract stale, polluted air and replace it with fresh, filtered air while recovering heat, ensuring your home remains both efficient and well-ventilated.

    Control humidity levels

    Maintain indoor humidity levels between 30% to 60% (with 50% being the ideal) to prevent mould growth and dust mite proliferation. You should also install exhaust fans in moisture-prone areas, such as bathrooms. High-efficiency filters, like those in our MVHR systems, remove particulate matter and allergens from the air, while humidity control systems prevent airborne bacteria, viruses, mould growth, and build up of dust mite numbers – all while maintaining comfort levels. 

    Conduct regular cleaning and maintenance

    It’s important to maintain and regularly clean your home, and address any mould and mildew promptly. MVHR systems should be regularly serviced and maintained to ensure their long-term performance, delivering lasting benefits to occupants and the environment.The quality of the air we breathe indoors plays a crucial role in our health and wellbeing. By understanding what helps respiratory health – including learning about the common pollutants and allergens found in homes and implementing practical strategies to improve indoor air quality – we can create a healthier environment for ourselves and our loved ones. Take the first step towards breathing easier at home and discover how MVHR could revolutionise your indoor air quality.
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