How can pollution in the home impact your health and wellbeing?
Professor Vardoulakis continues, “Exposure to formaldehyde may cause health effects in some individuals. The severity of symptoms depends on the concentration and duration of exposure. Certain population groups, including children and people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, are at higher risk of developing symptoms. Formaldehyde is carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk of nasopharyngeal and leukaemia cancers. It can also cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. People with skin conditions such as eczema can also be irritated by exposure to relatively low concentrations of formaldehyde.”
Professor Vardoulakis says, “We’re often exposed to many different types of both indoor and outdoor air pollution and the health effects of different pollutants can depend on the individual. Certain groups may be particularly sensitive to the effects of air pollutants, including young children, pregnant women, the elderly and one in nine Australians who suffer from respiratory health conditions such as asthma, hay fever or bronchitis.”
How can you remove indoor pollution?
Dennis Mathews, Research Scientist in Microbiology at Dyson, says, “To reduce the amount of germs in the home and on items such as the couch and curtains, I recommend vacuuming these regularly as they can harbour not only large debris but also dust mites, skin flakes and other allergens such as pollen and food allergens. Wash any sofa coverings and cushions to reduce the level of dust caught within them, as this will help to break down allergens (proteins) and reduce the amount to cause allergies. A lot of dust can gather in curtains and blinds. Make sure to vacuum them regularly or launder them if possible and practical.”
“Keep your carpets, hard floors, upholstery and surfaces free of dust and pet hair – most effectively by vacuuming ‘little and often’. Vacuuming frequently on areas that receive more footfall will help to stop dirt building up and getting trodden into your floor. Using a cord-free vacuum is helpful for this, as the versatile format means you don’t have to spend time getting the machine out of the cupboard, plugging it in, moving it around and so on.”
Professor Vardoulakis adds, “Air purifiers with HEPA filters, when appropriately used, can reduce exposure to smoke particles and significantly improve indoor air quality. Air purifiers with sealed HEPA filters can provide added protection from smoke as well as keeping the air clean of everyday pollutants found in our homes. This includes indoor pollutants such as dander from pets, fumes from gas stoves and VOCs from beauty products like hair spray.”
“The best way to reduce exposure to formaldehyde in the home is to avoid products that contain this product as well as avoid smoking indoors,” continues Professor Vardoulakis.
“When buying new furniture, removing the packaging and allowing these to air out before bringing them into the home can also allow products to off-gas. Ventilation can help to lower the temperature and humidity in the home, while air purifiers with HEPA filters can capture and destroy formaldehyde.”
 Klepeis NE, Nelson WC, Ott WR, et al. The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol 2001;11:231-52
 Portnoy, Jay et al. (2013), “Environmental assessment and exposure control of dust mites: a practice parameter.” Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology vol. 111,6: 465-507. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2013.09.018
 SA Health (11 Sept 2020), ‘Formaldehyde’, Available here https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/conditions/chemicals+and+contaminants/formaldehyde.
 Vardoulakis S., Giagloglou E., Steinle S., Davis A., Sleeuwenhoek A., Galea K.S., Dixon K., Crawford J.O., 2020. Indoor Exposure to Selected Chemical Air Pollutants: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, 8972; doi:10.3390/ijerph17238972