4 reasons why there’s more air pollution in winter

– and how to improve the air quality in your home

Winter’s here. Time to light a fire, close the windows and keep cozy. And, when load-shedding hits, flick on the generator and continue to ‘Netflix and chill’.

But, if you want to stay healthy this winter, this is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing – unless you’ve invested in an air purifier, says Trevor Brewer, Director of air treatment and lifestyle Specialist Solenco.

Brewer breaks down the four main reasons for winter’s poor air quality, explains how air quality affects our health, and provides some solutions:

Air pollution – even indoors

In South Africa, the particulate matter (read: pollution) in our air is regularly higher than the national standards. Around 86% of South Africa’s primary energy supply is from coal, and much of the particulate matter that we breathe in is caused in the process of generating coal-fired electricity1. In addition, the coalfields that produce most of the coal needed by Eskom are the second-worst sulphur dioxide pollution hotspots in the world.

And the diesel generators that sit in our back gardens? Diesel, during both its production and usage, is one of the highest contributors to global carbon dioxide CO2 emissions.

Factor in the smog from open fires and paraffin cookers often used in informal settlements, as well as the dust and veld fires in dryer provinces, and the traffic fumes in built-up areas, and you’ll see that outdoor air pollution is a major health hazard in winter.

And you’re no better off indoors.

“Pollutants are microscopic particles of toxic chemicals that are small enough to enter the bloodstream. Because they’re so small, you can be sure that they’re being carried into your home. In fact, the concentration of pollutants and toxins found in the air can actually be two to five times higher indoors than out,”

says Brewer.

Poor ventilation

Keeping the windows closed may help to keep cold air out but it also keeps polluted air in. Dust, fumes from household chemicals, emissions from appliances, bacteria and germs, pet dander, damp and mould, and the pollutants discussed above, are all at home in your house when there’s no fresh air circulating. And with them come all the winter ailments.

You could stock up on medicine to deal with the symptoms that come with seasonal changes, says Brewer, but he suggests that you rather prevent these adverse effects by investing in an air purifier for your home or office.

Air purifiers filter pollutants and VOCs (volatile organic compounds, which can be 10 times more concentrated indoors than outdoors) from the air. If you’re serious about the air you breathe, you should look for a purifier that uses HEPA technology, which forces air through an ultra-fine mesh to trap pollutants. A HEPA filter, like that in the Solenco Purification Pal, removes 99.8% of particles as small as 0.3 microns (too small to see) from the air.

Dry air

In winter, in Gauteng specifically, the dryness of the air constitutes a health hazard. For people with respiratory or lung issues, cold and dry air narrows airways and makes it harder to breathe. Even if you’re healthy, dry air can cause pain, inflammation and headaches, asthma, allergies and hay fever, itchy, uncomfortable skin, and nose bleeds.

Brewer says an evaporative humidifier is a great way to keep your indoor air at optimal moisture levels and remove air impurities, to improve your comfort and your health. A smaller unit will service a bedroom or living area, while a whole-home unit can cover 370 square metres.

Excess moisture

In provinces with winter rainfall, damp air can cause sinus congestion. Too much moisture could also encourage mould in your home, which can bring about respiratory system issues and allergies. A dehumidifier will prevent dampness and mould, and will also dry up the water vapour that tends to gather when you’re heating your home with the windows and doors shut.

A desiccant-type dehumidifier is more efficient in colder temperatures, and will also release air back into a room 10 to 12 degrees warmer.

“While it’s difficult to control the weather and outdoor pollution, you can control your immediate environment by investing in home air treatment solutions. It’s possible to take your health into your own hands even as our air quality takes a turn for the worse in winter,”

concludes Brewer.


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