The holiday season brings many pleasant experiences. Families and friends are coming together, people are cooking delicious feasts, there are Christmas lights everywhere, and the streets are covered with the remnants of party poppers. How do the festivities influence the indoor air quality and what can we do to keep our homes healthy?
First, let’s look into the most common indoor air pollutants. You might not want or be able to eliminate them, but you can act to counteract their effects.
Fire, lights, and heat
When it comes to holiday indoor air pollution, we place burning wood, open fireplaces, candles, and even cooking in the naughty list.
Burning wood can seem romantic, but the unhealthy particulate matter (PM) the smoke contains can enter the houses again or be inhaled outdoors.
Candles and open fireplaces burn a lot of oxygen thus creating excess CO2. Candles also emit ultrafine particles (UFP) in the air from the pigments, soot from flickering, and, if they’re scented, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well.
Depending on the stove, utensils, and cleaning agents used, cooking the feast can produce particles especially harmful to our respiratory and cardiovascular health.
Families coming together, Christmas shopping sprees and restaurant visits, concerts, and balls are all examples of many people occupying a single space. More people in an indoor space can quickly elevate the CO2 to unhealthy levels.
Party poppers, fireworks, and others
Did you know that party poppers can create many ultrafine particles? Those pesky flecks are small enough to enter our lungs and even the bloodstream, causing immediate and long-term risks.
Fireworks contain varied sizes of particulate matter, including UFP, VOCs, and other pollutants that seriously lower the air quality for hours, even outdoors. This can cause many symptoms from headaches and respiratory impairment to high blood pressure and heart conditions.
Keeping the air quality high
We have already written about the daily habits you could adopt to keep the air fresh. There are a few extra things you can take care of to make sure the indoor air quality stays high during the festive season.
Whether you use natural ventilation like opening windows, vents, and doors or have a HVAC system installed, the holiday season is the right time to boost it. Depending on where you live and what’s the weather is, this might help if the air gets too humid or dry as well.
To get the ventilation exactly right, measure CO2 as a proxy for the air quality and increase airflow as it rises to unhealthy levels.
Those HVAC systems we just talked about – when did you last clean it? We say it’s better to welcome the holiday season with clean or changed air filters, furnaces, air ducts, and extractor fans. These systems can only do their job if you take care of them. Do that, then take full advantage of them while you celebrate. HVAC maintenance could lower your electricity bills as well!
More tips and tricks
There are other things you could do to save yourself from breathing polluted indoor air.
Using natural decorations and a real Christmas tree could both benefit the environment by lowering carbon emissions and reduce the number of harmful pollutants eventually released into the air.
Still want to burn that wood to create a cozy atmosphere? Store the firewood outside to avoid attracting insects and rodents and mold formation in the house. If possible, only use dry wood for burning to get the most heat out of it and avoid air pollution that comes with burning wet wood.
We wish you a happy holiday and hope that our tips will help you stay safe, healthy, and energetic while celebrating.