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Wellbeing / Health & wellbeing

Indoor air quality: Breathe easy in your home office

Toxins in your office could be reducing the indoor air quality - to the detriment of your health and work performance. Fortunately there are some easy things you can do to address this.

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It has been estimated that Australians typically spend at least 90 percent of their time indoors, whether at home, in the office or in the car. If the indoor air quality air is poor, it can cause headaches, poor concentration, dizziness, increased susceptibility to colds and ‘flu, or exacerbate asthma. All in all, CSIRO estimates that poor indoor air quality costs Australia up to $12 billion per year.

There are, however, a few easy ways to improve the indoor air quality in your office, workplace, or home (even if these are all the same place!). Follow these tips to start detoxing your work life.

Slip off those shoes

Take your shoes off at the door before you come in to your workplace. Why? Because the pollutants and heavy metals in the air from exhaust fumes, manufacturing emissions and other sources sink to the ground, where they’re picked up on the soles of your shoes, brought into your office, and then recirculated when you dust or vacuum. (Obviously you need to use common sense before going barefoot in the workplace – if it presents an OHS risk then this is not a good idea!)

"One plant can clean about 10 square metres of air."

Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner

A vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter removes dust particles as small as 3 microns (human hair is about 60 microns wide) and traps them in the filter, rather than just throwing them back into the air. My cats and dogs visit me in the office so there tends to be lots of pet hair around. To remove it effectively, a vacuum cleaner with a power or turbo head is best. Similarly, use microfibre cloths for dusting – they trap the dust, instead of just moving it around.

Want more articles like this? Check out the health-and-wellbeing section.

Put books and magazines away

Unless you’re referring to them often, keep books and magazines in a closed cupboard. These and similar items are dust catchers, and dust harbours dust mites, (which can cause respiratory illnesses and eczema). It’s also a food source for mould (and don’t get me started on the health hazards of mould!)

Open your window

It sounds really obvious, but the more oxygen you breathe, the better your brain and body will work. Please don’t use air fresheners, as many of them are toxic. Instead, try opening the window.

And rather than grabbing a chocolate or coffee during that sleepy 2–3 p.m. zone, go for a walk or move your body around to get more oxygen into you and the blood flowing.

Get a plant

Some indoor plants actually purify your air. My favourite is the peace lily (Spathiphyllum), which is excellent for removing some volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde and benzene. One plant can clean about 10 square metres of air. They grow well in the shade and they’re pretty robust, but if you don’t like them, there are about 50 other indoor plants that will clean toxins to varying degrees, so there’s bound to be one that suits your decor.

Do you have any other tips for helping to improve indoor air quality? Or any concerns you’d like advice on? Please share them below.

Pauline Ferguson

consults with people in their home or workplace to identify the poisons that are potentially causing illness. She tries to find a balance between Nature and today's lifestyle so we can be healthy and transcend.

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