Holiday Air Quality

December 03, 2012

Ahhh, the holidays; full of joy, laughter, loved ones…and indoor air pollution?  All of our holiday festivities, guests, and decorations can contribute to lowering the quality of the air in our homes.

We love to bring out the holiday decorations; opening those storage containers brings back memories of years past.  It also stirs up the dust that has been accumulating on those containers for the past eleven months.  If you store your decorations in a garage or outdoor storage unit, the particulates may also include mold, mildew, and even pieces of any dead insects that made their way into the containers.

Inside the box, think of this: Do you clean your decorations before taking them down at the end of the year?  They accumulate dust, pet dander, and anything else that is floating in your home’s air; if you don’t clean your decorations, you’re just rebreathing last year’s air pollutants.

One big difference this month is how many candles we burn.  Most of the year, we may burn candles to make the house smell nice or mask unpleasant odors.  But during December, candles are used all over the home. However, if your candles are made from paraffin or gel, they release soot as well as toxic particulates into the air. This is because paraffin and gel are made with petroleum, so burning them gives off the same emissions as burning diesel fuel, just on a small scale. Use soy or beeswax candles instead.  The use of air cleaners will help reduce the particulates and emissions greatly, but why introduce them in the first place?

During December, many of us will host a get-together of some kind in our home; what we don’t think about is what, exactly, all of our guests will bring with them besides an appetizer or bottle of wine.

  • Everyone wants to look their best, so they take their nicest suit or dress to the dry cleaner for the occasion.  Unfortunately, dry-cleaning solution is full of volatile organic compounds that pollute the air around the garments cleaned in it. 

  • Any smokers on the guest list? It doesn’t matter if the guests smoke inside or not; they’re still bringing the smell and the particulates from the smoke along for the ride.

  • For fancier parties, most guests will wear their shoes indoors; they’ll help particulates from the outside world, such as pollen, spores, and dirt, walk right in.

  • Last but not least: Let’s hope no one coughs or sneezes while in your home.  Particulates include bacteria and viruses that cause disease.

  • Of course, the host most likely isn’t innocent either: How many candles and fireplaces are lighting the night?  Using a holiday air freshener?  All of these things contribute greatly to indoor air pollution.

Since no one wants to be a humbug this time of year, the best plan for breathing easy and healthfully this month includes several solutions:

  • Change your air filter at the beginning of the month so that it can work hard all month long; then change it again early in the new year.

  • Use air cleaners to rid your home of pollutants like pollen, dust, pet hair, dander, dust mites, tobacco smoke, spores, bacteria, and viruses.

  • Use air purifiers to remove airborne allergens.

  • Open doors or windows as much as possible this month to bring in fresh outdoor air.



Last Updated: June 09, 2023