You know that moment when you step into nature and feel the urge to close your eyes and take a whiff of the air around you? Same. And that’s great and great for you—except when it’s straight-up unhealthy. Effects of inhaling pollution over time are well-documented and TBH, super scary. Just this week, a yikes-inducing study was released in which researchers likened long-term exposure to this environmental threat to the effects of smoking a pack of cigarettes each day.
Given this decidedly un-fun finding, taking steps to improve the indoor air quality within your own home is even more crucial—and according to Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Files, there several clever strategies to accomplish just that. Based on a 2015 scientific review published in Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology that analyzed the best way to treat indoor air, Tetro has five recommendations for spiffing up your indoor space—no matter your square footage.
Buying a HEPA filter, which is designed with a web of fibers that catches harmful air particles before you breathe them in, is Tetro’s top recommendation for giving your home an anti-pollution makeover. HEPA technology can be found for air purifiers if you want to start small, but for those who want to make a larger-scale change, it’s possible to install the filters directly into your central air system.
“These release ions into the air that break down particulates, so they cannot cause problems,” says Tetro. Ionic air cleaners are usually sold in a similar form as an air purifier. While there’s been come controversy about them in the past (due to the fact that they emit ozone, a potential pollutant), most sources agree that they are generally safe.
“These are fans that circulate air and then use UV light to make sure nothing survives,” Tetro says. “They are used in health care and also in some hand dryers.”
“They do a good job of helping to keep the air fresh. The plants or the microbes in the soil use the pollutants as precursors for other useful chemicals. In essence, they are ‘eating’ the pollutants,” says Tetro. So, not only will the greenery make you aesthetically happy, but it’ll help clean the air, too.
Consider this your zero-dollar way to make your indoor air quality better and a little bit crisper—as long as where you live isn’t subject to air pollution issues. “If you have the ability to open windows, and the outside air is safe, this will help to dilute out any pollution that might be stagnant inside,” explains Tetro.
While you’re spiffing your space, keep non-toxic living expert Sophia Gushée’s tips in mind.