Representatives from NICE, the National Health Service's (NHS) regulator, have advised the public to keep windows open while cooking and to stop drying clothes indoors to reduce air pollution in their homes.
Alan Maryon-Davis, the chair of NICE's public health committee, says that indoor air quality must be considered when talking about overall wellness.
Pollutants inside the house can come from sources such as aerosols, cleaning products, cooking, damp, fires and smoking. These sources don't just contribute to pollution, they can also irritate the lungs or trigger asthma.
NICE advises people to keep windows open or use exhaust fans when using candles, cleaning products and gas cookers. It is also best to crack open a window while taking a bath or shower.
Avoid drying clothes indoors. If you have no other choice, keep a window or two open to let out damp air that may affect indoor air quality. (Related: Are your clothes contributing to pollution? Synthetic fibers release tiny pieces of plastic into the environment.)
Overall, NICE's report cautions against "moisture-producing activities." Check your home regularly for any leaking pipes and inspect the roof and window frames after heavy rains.
Condensation can make mold grow indoors, so keep your home well-insulated and ventilated, especially your kitchen and bathroom.
Asthma isn't considered an immediate danger, but the condition often lasts for a lifetime. Asthma can also cause serious breathing difficulties or fatal attacks.
Young children who spend most of their time indoors, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with long-term illnesses are often vulnerable to indoor pollution.
Gill Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, cautions that living in homes with poor air quality is linked to a greater risk of various health problems. Moreover, poor ventilation causes a build-up of pollutants that may aggravate conditions like asthma.
The NICE report highlights the importance of addressing common issues like mold and damp. It also notes that pregnant women should avoid using air fresheners, candles and household cleaning sprays with harmful chemicals.
In particular, aerosols and candles fill your home with particles called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These particles are toxic, especially if you are exposed to them over long periods of time.
The US Environmental Protection Agency warns that VOCs can cause symptoms like headaches, liver and kidney damage and nerve problems. VOCs are even associated with a greater risk of cancer.
Additionally, VOCs can be released by burning coal, gas, petrol or wood. They are also found in carpets and vinyl floors, along with products like cosmetics, hairsprays and cooking oil. Damp air and mold from VOCs can harm your health and make it harder to breathe.
On the other hand, with mold that develops because of dampness, particles or spores can break off. Inhaling mold can irritate your airways and can result in inflammation, which can cause a congested nose, coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and throat irritation.
Dust and dirt particles in the air and fibers from carpets, pollen or animal hair also have similar effects.
The United Nations urges that air pollution should be considered "a human rights issue," especially since it causes seven million premature deaths annually around the world. That figure includes at least 600,000 children.
According to UNICEF, Britain is suffering from a "toxic air crisis" that can turn into a public health emergency if left unchecked.
Start improving your home's indoor air quality today. Keep your house clean, check for damp and mold and leave a couple of windows open while you're cooking to keep your kitchen ventilated.