Tips to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution this Holiday Season

Tips to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution this Holiday Season

When you hear the word "pollution" you likely envision the skyline of Los Angeles or Beijing, where smog and soot create a heavy haze in the skyline. Few people stop to think about the air pollution they create in their own home, especially during the holiday season. After all, you don't have a car running in the living room, so where could all the soot come from? Did you know that your holiday scented candles and fireplace, can significantly compromise your indoor air quality (IAQ)?

There's Soot in Your Home!

Unfortunately, many American homeowners have been unpleasantly surprised with the news of soot deposit and environmental toxins appearing in their home, seemingly out of nowhere. In fact, the trend has become so noticeable that the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) has noted a large uptick in calls about black soot deposition from concerned homeowners.

What is Black Soot Deposition?

Soot occurs when carbon-based fuels don't combust completely. It's the black and dark grey stuff that you see in your fireplace or on the wall, next to your candles. Often, soot will become stuck to walls, ceilings, and enter air vents. Besides being unsightly, soot negatively effects the indoor air quality of your home and your health overall.

Health Dangers of Soot

Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits the amount of soot that manufacturers and car exhausts can spew out into the atmosphere? There is good reason for this. Soot particles are very, very small, and reach the deepest parts of your lungs when inhaled. This can aggravate asthma, allergies, other respiratory diseases, and even contribute to the development of cancer. If outdoor air plays such a crucial part in healthy living, how much more important is the air inside your home?

But, My Air Conditioning Filter Will Keep Me Safe!

Actually, this isn't very accurate. Soot produced by candles and fireplaces is tiny; less than 0.1 micron in diameter. Such a small size means that soot can bypass many air conditioning filters and cycle through your house several times, until it finally attaches itself to a solid surface.

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So, how do I reduce indoor air pollution this holiday season?

Natural Life Magazine identified these tips for proper use of candles.

Tips to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution this Holiday Season:

  • Use radiator assembly candle holders. These are characterized by a top, or a roof, that is positioned right above the candle, where the soot can become quickly trapped.
  • Avoid wax that contains volatile aromatic hydrocarbons. Soot levels are often directly correlated to oil levels in a candle. In fact, some old fashioned wax candles can produce 50 times more soot than soy candles, beeswax, or non-scented candles.
  • Avoid multiple wick candles and inspect the wick. Make sure the thickness is proportional for the size of the candle. Choose candles without a wire wick. Thin, braided wicks are the best choice.
  • Trim the wick to ¼ inch before lighting. The wick should burn down evenly with the wax.
  • Keep your candle in an area free of drafts and heavy airflow. Reducing oxygen flow to the flame, reduces soot production.
  • Don't burn a candle for more than an hour. Make sure the candle has time to cool before relighting. This reduces the chances of soot development.
  • Try battery operated candles. Though they may initially seem fake, high quality battery operated candles can look very realistic and provide you with the necessary aromatherapy, but without any soot-generating combustion.

  • Fireplaces and Soot

    Fireplaces are also a major source of soot deposition in a home. Contrary to popular belief, gas fireplaces can also produce soot; just like wooden fireplaces do. Vented gas fireplaces (where air is drawn from the outside) tend to develop soot deposition. Consider switching to a non-vented gas fireplace to reduce the amount of indoor pollution.

    Do You Have Smoke Damage?

    If you have smoke damage or a concern of compromised indoor air quality, get a clear evaluation of the extent of the damage by scheduling an appointment with an air quality specialist (IAQA). Even small amounts of candle burning or fireplace use can create big hazards for your family over time.

    More Info? The Holidays are hectic enough and they last thing you need to worry about is fighting off annoying coughing and sneezing. Check out How To Reduce Allergies this Holiday Season to ensure a Happy Holidays for you and your family!