7 Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Moving to our new home has been very exciting. Out with the old and in with the new! New paint, new carpets, new furniture, new appliances–they are all shiny and beautiful, but they also emit their fair share of solvents and chemicals.

As naturopathic doctors we counsel our patients to avoid as many chemicals in their environment as possible. We suggest they eat organic food to avoid pesticides, use all-natural cosmetics to avoid phthalates, use all natural cleaners to avoid triclosan, and so on.

So how are we dealing with our increased exposure to the solvents and chemicals that come with moving into our new home? The same way you can! Here’s what we’ve been up to.

1. Buy Used When Possible

This is an often-overlooked way to decrease your overall exposure to solvents and chemicals. When you buy or re-use old stuff, the off-gassing has already happened, making that piece of furniture or cabinet more chemically inert.

You will see many of the fixtures and furniture from the old clinic in the new one. Also, I love to check out used furniture stores or building stores, and surf on kijiji. Not only is it cost effective, but the chemical tax has already been paid!

2. Use Low VOC paints

Robinsons Paint and Wall Paper here in Collingwood carries a great line of Benjamin Moore paints that contain zero volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and are remarkably low odour. (Note: that’s zero VOC according to the standard method used to measure them, EPA Method 24, which isn’t perfect, but is something.)

3. “Bake” a New Room

When the carpets went in, we cranked up the heat for the weekend and then came in on Monday and opened the windows. The idea is that increased heat speeds up release of the solvents, which you can then release from the building. This process can speed up the off-gassing time markedly–you can use it at home when you paint, get new furniture or carpet, or otherwise introduce new sources of VOC’s to your home.

4. Use Room Air Filters 

A good HEPA filter and carbon filter combo does a great job of getting the dust, extra solvents and chemicals out of the air. We used several of these ones, which after some homework seemed like the best value for the dollar.

5. Install an HRV

Older buildings are often said to “breathe”, which is a nice way of saying they’re leaky and drafty. Modern buildings don’t breathe as much, which is much more efficient, but it also means they can get stuffy because they air stays inside.

In our new office, we installed a heat recovery ventilator system, or HRV, which takes fresh air from outside the house, brings it inside, and circulates it through the ductwork. The unit transfers a portion of heat in the stale air being exhausted to the fresh incoming air from outside before being distributed throughout the house, so it doesn’t feel drafty.

6. Put Plants to Work

Nature has its own system for cleaning the air, and you can use it inside, too: plants. Here’s a post from our archives about three plants you can use to scrub CO2, add oxygen, and remove toxins.

7. Support Your Biochemistry

Our bodies have an unbelievable ability to detoxify chemicals. There are double redundant systems to do it, and as your body is exposed to chemicals, those systems kick it up a notch and work even harder. As long as you give your body what is required for those detox pathways to work, they will work remarkably well.

We all drank LOTS of water after the move. (In fact, you’ll notice in a new home you might feel thirstier for a few days. That’s your body’s systems at work.)

We also consumed lots of green juices and smoothies, plenty of fruits and veggies, and herbs and supplements like milk thistle, alpha lipoic acid, N-acetylcysteine, B vitamins, magnesium and many others.