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Air pollution and building work

Doing a little DIY project at home? Or maybe you’re undertaking a full-scale home renovation. Whatever it is, it’s good to be clued up on the types of pollution that can occur, so you can finish that exciting home project while staying completely safe.

VOCs

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in several popular household products and building materials such as paints, primers, solvents, vinyl flooring, carpets and insulation. They release particles into the air which can cause you to feel a little sick, dizzy, or to have a sore throat. They’re not particularly harmful in short bursts. But if you breathe them in over a long period of time, they can have more harmful consequences.

Formaldehyde

This chemical can be found in primers, adhesives, textiles such as rugs and carpets, and in composite wood furniture. It can cause light illnesses like headaches and irritation to the eyes and throat. However, like VOCs, if they’re breathed in over a long period of time, they can be more harmful.

Dust

Dust from cutting materials such as wood, brick and stone is a common indoor pollutant. It can make your eyes and throat itchy as well as making it harder to breathe. If breathed in over a long period of time, it can be particularly bad for your lungs.

How do I treat the problem?

Air purifiers

For large scale renovations, industrial air cleaners should be used to properly remove any pollutants. But a good air purifier with a HEPA filter is just the ticket for normal DIY jobs and decorating. The purifier will trap the bad stuff to make sure the airflow is fresh and clean.

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Ventilation

Keep your home well ventilated by letting fresh air in through your windows and doors when painting and using solvents. Use extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom to keep the humidity levels right. Make sure when installing that new log burner that it has the right filter to get rid of toxins that are released by fuel burning. Finally, when that new furniture arrives, make sure to ventilate the room they’re in so any chemicals can air out.

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Correct storage and disposal

Store DIY and building materials in safe areas out of the way in the garage, shed or an outhouse. This way it’s not around you or your family. Also, make sure to get rid of any used materials such as paints, primers and adhesives that have been left open for a long time. You’ll need to dispose of these responsibly, so check your local council’s website if you’re not quite sure how.

Dehumidifiers

A dehumidifier will help keep the levels of humidity in your home just right by sucking out any moisture from the air. They’re ideal for when the temperature is hot and muggy as pollutants like formaldehyde can thrive when in high humidity levels.

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Steam cleaning

If you want to keep on top of dust mites in your home, then you’ll want a good steam cleaner. They’re great at removing even the finest of dust particles along with other allergens and irritants. Plus, you can use them to keep your lovely soft furniture grub free.

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Non-polluting alternatives

One of the best ways to keep you home pollutant free is by using non-polluting alternatives. While this is pretty unavoidable with building repairs and renovations, you can get low VOC-emitting paints, primers and solvents for when you’re decorating. Also, you can choose furniture with low levels of VOCs and formaldehyde – you can find this info on labels and product descriptions. And why not try using steam or other natural products such as vinegar to clean your home and choose electric heaters over fuel-based heaters like gas or wood burners.

Test your knowledge

How do you improve indoor air quality?
How do you remove VOCs from your home?
How long do VOCs stay in the air?
Can I paint the house while pregnant?
What is considered a VOC?
What is that new carpet smell?
How long does formaldehyde stay in furniture?
What are combustible pollutants?
What is the least toxic flooring?
How long does it take for that new carpet smell to go away?
Does humidity affect indoor air quality?