We already know that the quality of the air we breathe here in the greater Paris region is laden with pesticides and particulate matter. But what about the air inside our homes? The first ever study on indoor air quality by the French Indoor Air Quality Observatory was completed recently. The study was based on a survey of 700 homes in France where air samples were taken and measured for levels of contaminants. Results of the study are available here.
The study found that some of the most ubiquitous pollutants were aldehydes and hydrocarbons – present in 80-90 percent of dwellings surveyed. More than half of the houses surveyed had significant concentrations of particulate matter, radon and gamma radiation. Sources of pollution included construction and decoration materials, furniture, DIY products, heating and hot water equipment, cooking, washing, smoking, use of candles, incense, cosmetics, presence of plants and pets, outdoor air. Ventilation was also an essential factor determining air quality.
The Observatory has organized the indoor air contaminants into several categories, starting with the most dangerous to human health:
1. Most dangerous are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like aldehydes and benzenes (present in paints, ink, plastics, detergents, cigarette smoke). Also radon, phtalates and formaldehyde – found in a wide variety of resins, wood furniture and paper products such as waxed paper, paper towels and facial tissues. Formaldehyde – a carcinogen in animals – is also emitted from fabrics that have been treated for wrinkle resistance and carpeting.
2. Next are “high priority” substances including lead, carbon monoxide, cat and dog allergens, dust mites, azote dioxide (NO2), toluene – a solvent found in paint thinners, glues and varnishes, trichloroethylene, tetrachlorethylene, aldrine and dieldrine.
3. Finally, a group of 51 “priority” substances electromagnetic fields at low frequencies, VOCs, glycol ethers, endotoxins and artificial mineral fibers used as insulation materials in buildings.
What to do?
– ventilate by opening all windows wide for five minutes every day
– use natural insulating materials such as hemp and cork
– keep temperatures at 19 C in the office and living room, 16 C in the bedrooms
– maintain humidity levels at between 30 and 60 percent
– use appropriate house-cleaning products and cosmetics
– fill your house with purifying house plants
Studies by NASA have shown that house plants can purify and revitalize air in our homes and offices and protect us from the negative effects of certain contaminants. Here are some of the detox plant workhorses:
Areca palm absorbs xylene and formaldehyde
Boston fern works well on filtering formadelyde and xylene
English ivy absorbs formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, xylene and trichhlorethylene
Dwarf date palm absorbs formaldehyde and xylene
And the cactus cereus peruvianus is a good plant for an office space to absorb electromagnetic radiation from computers and television sets.