You Might As Well Be Drinking Dirty Water

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June 8, 2017

...since you’re probably already breathing dirty air.  

It’s not your fault — we’re often led to believe that the air we’re breathing is perfectly clean and healthy if we can’t physically see anything wrong with it, like smoke or even smog. The truth is, the factors that determine the cleanliness of our air aren’t as easily recognizable — in fact, they’re literally invisible.

Like drinking water, the purity of our air depends on the presence (or absence) of a few key ingredients. Specifically, the quality of our air can be determined by the delicate balance of five key factors: the levels of chemicals, carbon dioxide, dust, humidity, and the current temperature.

Indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, so it’s very likely that the air in your home could have unsafe levels of one or more of these factors. Don’t panic yet, though! We’ve broken down what it means for your air to be clean:

Chemicals (VOCs)

Plain and simple: we underestimate the amount of chemicals that enter our bodies with every breath we take. The chemicals in our air are known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and can come in many scary packages — such as Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Acetone. VOC’s have been known to cause a variety of health problems, including eczema flare ups, allergies, asthma, and headaches.

VOC’s end up in our air because they can easily evaporate at room temperature. From candles, to paint, to product packaging, VOC’s are almost impossible to avoid.

You can keep VOC’s at bay by letting in some fresh air and opening a window. Certain indoor plants — like Snake plants, English Ivy and Boston ferns — can help you by absorbing VOCs from the air.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Although it has a bit of a reputation, carbon dioxide is a natural component of our air. CO2 comes from a variety of unnatural and natural sources — including humans. The moment you enter a room, you’ll start adding more carbon dioxide to the air with every exhale.

Too much carbon dioxide in your air can cause drowsiness, headaches, decreased productivity, and poor sleep quality. Like VOCs, you can keep the CO2 in your air at a healthy level by ventilating.


We may think we can easily notice dust once it starts accumulating on our furniture, but the truth is, you’ve probably been breathing in dust long before it settles. That's because fine dust particles (PM2.5) are invisible to the naked eye, but are easily inhaled into our lungs. It’s very easy to accidentally create dust in your home — even some cleaning activities like vacuuming and dusting will fling more dust into your air.

One piece of dust contains a potpourri of unpleasant items, like dead skin, mold spore, pieces of dead insects, and pet dander; so it’s no surprise that dust can cause itchiness, asthma, eczema, and hay fever.

Dust mites love dark, moist places, so your best bet to keep your dust levels low is to keep track of how humid your air is, and the temperature of your home. Which brings us to...


Humidity plays an important role in your overall comfort, and too high or low humidity can cause health problems.

If your humidity is too high, you can risk mold and mildew growth in your home. On the other hand, if your humidity is too low, you’ll start to experience eye, nose, skin, and throat irritation. If you wear contact lenses, they can become irritated when the humidity is too low.


The temperature of your air affects you in more ways than you realize. Studies have shown that significant changes in temperature can cause you to become less productive and have trouble completing physical and mental tasks.

Summer: 73 ℉ - 79℉

Winter: 68℉ - 76℉

And if you’re aiming for peak work performance, your productivity is at its best between 70℉ and 72℉.

Maintaining your indoor temperature is important beyond comfort and productivity — when temperatures are high, the chemicals found in buildings will leak into your air at a faster rate.

Understand What's in Your Air

Trying to keep track of all the factors that affect how clean your air is can seem overwhelming — and that’s why we’re here to help. A smart indoor air quality monitor like Awair can help you stay safe and healthy by keeping tabs on these five factors and providing you with personalized recommendations to keep them under control.