When most people think of factors that are required for healthy living, they are likely to list diet, exercise, and sleep. While each of these most definitely plays a significant role in creating our health and wellbeing, we tend to overlook the importance of the air quality that we subject ourselves to daily. You could be doing great by eating the right foods and staying active while harming yourself with the air you breathe. And while we cannot control the quality of the outdoor air, aside from moving out of heavily polluted areas, you have a lot of control over the quality of the indoor air in your home, and perhaps even your workplace.

Unfortunately, the modern-day lifestyle revolves around indoor environments and nature-deprived cities, which has caused us to distance ourselves tremendously from nature and its numerous healing attributes. What is worse is that in addition to spending more time indoors and less time outdoors, many people are unknowingly making their indoor environments even more toxic. Our homes and workplaces today are already full of synthetic products that off-gas hazardous compounds, and many people add to this volatile brew by using all kinds of chemical air fresheners and cleaning products that emit allergens and toxic air pollutants. Therefore, through this article, I wish to raise awareness about these topics to help you make better healthy living choices for yourself and those in your care.

Are You Getting Enough Fresh Air?

How much of each of your days are spent outdoors? For many people, the answer will amount to a bunch of minutes added up as they go from one closed space to another. We live in enclosed homes; we get into cars in garages or on driveways; we drive to other indoor locations where we spend the majority of each day, and drive back home, only to repeat it all again the next day. During the warm months, people are sealed off in air-conditioned spaces, and during the cold months, they are sealed off in heated areas. It is rare, unless a person is already health-conscious, to live in a space that is regularly full of or routinely flooded with fresh air.

Many people do better and consciously increase the amount of fresh air they get each day during the warmer times of the year. However, our body needing fresh air is not a seasonal thing. We need an adequate amount of fresh air each day. Eating guidelines make us feel that there is a certain number of calories and specific nutrients that we should be getting. Exercise and even sleep guidelines point to healthy amounts for which we should aim. But when it comes to the amount of fresh air or time spent in nature, there are no set amounts or specified minimums for which we should aim. Instead, here we need to take a sensible approach and maximize the amount of fresh air exposure we get each day as much as possible.

The best way to make this a practical and sustainable habit is to create opportunities consciously to be outdoors. The same way that we are encouraged to walk whenever we can for more physical activity, the same way we need to get outdoors whenever we can for more fresh air. The best part is that when you combine walking with being outdoors, you get to multiply the health benefits. Your lungs, skin, eyes, and entire body all benefit from exposure to natural light and outdoor air. Then, there are the added health benefits of the physical movement that you would be doing to enhance your cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and nervous system health. Other lifestyle habits to consider here include going outdoors whenever you have a break at work, relying more on public transport to provide you with more outdoor time, and choosing outdoor activities over indoor activities whenever possible. Even if you are going to read a book or scroll through your smartphone, do it in your backyard, front yard, or balcony whenever you can. In essence, for optimal physical and psychological health, we need to flip our lifestyles to be outdoor-oriented instead of indoor-oriented as they are currently for most people.

The Health Benefits of Fresh Air

When we don’t get enough fresh air and time outdoors, we diminish our health potential. Our immune system is one of the first to feel these effects, and we are at an increased risk of infections, such as the cold, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions, as well as various skin conditions. Likewise, allergies and allergic reactions are most prevalent in modern-day populations that have the least natural eating and living habits. Early on in medical history, it was a given fact that fresh air and sunlight were imperative to good health and proper healing. Unfortunately, these essentials went out the window (pun intended!) when modern hospitals were designed. They created sealed spaces and window-less rooms, which went completely against what the body and mind require for optimal health and healing. The reasons behind this change were primarily financial and profit-oriented; the smaller and more compact the treatment space, the more people can be fit into it. Initially, practitioners worried that patient areas designed for efficiency, not healthiness, would prolong treatment, impede recovery, or even cause deaths. Today, most people and practitioners alike cannot imagine things any differently and don’t think twice about the congested and unhealthy air quality inside of most hospitals and similar medical institutions.

Patients in large urban hospitals suffered cross-infections and secondary infections far more frequently than patients in rural or small-town hospitals. It was common knowledge that if windowless rooms didn’t directly breed disease, they bred the conditions that led to disease.

In 1984, hospital architect Roger Ulrich published an article that had one clear and influential finding: Patients in hospital rooms with windows improved at a faster rate and in greater percentage than did patients in windowless rooms.

When Fresh Air Went Out of Style by Jeanne Kisacky ~ Smithsonian

Clean air and proper oxygen levels, next to adequate hydration, both increase the efficiency of nearly all life-sustaining reactions in our bodies. These include how well we can maintain weight or lose weight, how well we sleep, how our bodies manage their energy, and how resilient our bodies are to any acute or chronic disease. In addition to physical benefits, ample fresh air also provides psychological benefits. These include better mental clarity and focus, less brain fag, and a decreased risk of depression and anxiety. So while, both, indoor and outdoor air contains oxygen, the quality is vastly different, and your mind and body feel that difference.

What About Air Pollution?

Of course, it is valid to have some concerns about the fresh air that is available today. There is no doubt that outdoor air is not always better than indoor air. Headlines and stories about the deteriorating quality of outdoor air and the health consequences of pollution are all around us today, especially in the midst of the climate crisis. However, unless you live next to a factory or in a city with a consistently high pollution index, like Delhi, New York, or Mexico City, it is likely that the outdoor air will still be better than most indoor air spaces. The reason for this is the concentration and dilution effects. Outdoors, the air has the potential to be diluted as more fresh air is available, and consequently, the concentration of pollutants tends to be lower. Indoors, especially in common air-tight spaces that are reflective of most people’s homes and workplaces, there is likely to be a higher ratio of pollutants to fresh air. The following research illustrates the point:

Scented consumer products were analyzed - air fresheners, cloth drier sheets, fabric softener, and laundry detergent. Among these scented products, 98 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were identified, no doubt contributing to overall indoor levels of VOCs 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. Five of the six products emitted one or more chemicals classified by the EPA as Hazardous Air Pollutants (acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane).

Toxic Fragrance in the Air ~ Environmental Working Group

So while there is lots of talk about air pollution outdoors, there isn’t enough talk about air pollution indoors. This leaves many people with a false-positive idea that they are better off indoors than outdoors, where pollution is a high-risk factor.

You can check how your area scores for outdoor air pollution in real-time here and compare it to other parts of the world. Even though a change in geographic location is not a feasible option that most people can choose easily, it is in our best interest, as much as possible, to live in or move to areas that have good outdoor air quality. These will usually, but not always, be smaller towns and cities and places that have a high density of nature and trees.

Tips to Reduce Toxins and Improve Indoor Air Quality

Regardless of where you live, as mentioned in the introduction, we may not be able to control outdoor air, but we definitely can control indoor air to a great degree. Therefore, as accountable and empowered individuals, our primary focus should be on increasing the air quality inside of our homes and any other enclosed spaces in which we spend a large portion of our time and have any influence over. The more that you can reduce indoor air pollution and increase the amount of fresh air, the healthier of an environment you will have.

Here are 8 of the most important things to consider and take action on to reduce toxic indoor air quality and increase your exposure to fresh air:

1. Do not use ANY air fresheners.

It is bizarre, to say the least, how people bought into the idea of using chemical substances to freshen the air. It makes no logical sense whatsoever. Yet, billions of dollars of clever marketing made consumers feel that they needed air fresheners in their homes, cars, and workplaces. Air fresheners are some of the most toxic substances, and emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds, such as terpenes and terpenoids, including ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene, and semi-volatile organic compounds, such as phthalates. It doesn’t matter whether the air freshener is a spray, a plug-in, a candle, or even if it is labeled as “green” or “organic,” none are a safe option in the long run. They are all prone to health risks and are a tremendous waste of money and environmental resources.

When you use a synthetic air freshener, you are voluntarily adding toxic particles and pollutants to your indoor air. It would be one thing, too, if such spaces were routinely aired out, but they are not. It is, therefore, time to see air fresheners for what they really are - air polluters.

2. Open Windows

The best way to freshen the air in any space and increase our health potential is to open windows in any enclosed space that we find ourselves in, as much as we can. Naturally, some enclosed places don’t have windows, and some have windows that cannot be opened, but the point is to do what you can when you can.

Ideally, our homes should be aired out daily year-round. During the cold months, this may mean just opening your bedroom window for a few minutes or so, whereas, during the warmer months, you may be able to keep them open for hours. The point is that every little bit helps and makes a difference as outdoor air mixes with indoor air and dilutes down the concentration of indoor particles.

The easiest thing to do is set a schedule or create a routine to open up windows regularly by pairing it with something else. Perhaps while you are making breakfast in the morning or dinner at night, you open some windows. Perhaps while you are getting ready for bed, you open up your bedroom window for better sleep. If it is going to be a hot day, open up the windows in the early part of the day or the late part of the day, or better yet during both of these times if possible. If it is a cold day, try to open the windows during the warmest part of the day, as much as possible.

3. Use Fans

If you have odor problems in your home, whether from animals, sports equipment, or cooking, rely on fans in addition to opening doors and windows whenever possible. When you are cooking, keep in mind that frying in oils and heating oils on high or for a prolonged time emits harmful particles into the air. The fumes of cooking oils contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heterocyclic aromatic amines, benzene, and formaldehyde, which cause oxidative damages. These toxic particles irritate respiratory membranes, cause coughing and throat burning, increase the risks of respiratory infections, are carcinogenic, and increase the risk of lung cancer. Aside from fans being a must in such cases, for optimal health we should avoid such cooking measures and avoid fried foods altogether, and use healthy cooking habits instead.

Both bathroom fans and over-the-stove kitchen fans suck out air and can be used more often than just when cooking or using the bathroom. Ceiling fans are also an excellent way to move air around the house and amplify the cleansing effect, even more, when they are paired with open windows.

4. Establish Good Household Hygiene Habits

The more that you address cleaning what needs to be cleaned regularly, the less likely there will be any build-up of unpleasant odors in your home environment. This applies to sweat-stained clothing, animals in the home, kids in the home, bathroom areas, food areas, and proper personal hygiene. Unpleasant odors that make people think they need air fresheners are most likely to become concentrated when objects and spaces are not cleaned regularly enough. For example, many people have kids and animals in the home and maintain a clean and pleasant-smelling atmosphere. Others can be living on their own, without any kids or pets, and have major odor problems due to poor hygiene and lack of sufficient cleanliness.

If you share your home with animals, be sure to wash their living spaces and items, like beds and blankets, regularly. One potential idea is to buy natural fiber rugs, which have low risks of any toxic off-gassing and can be easily washed regularly. If you share your home with kids, teach them from an early age good personal and household hygiene, and get them involved in household cleaning activities. It goes without saying that smoking of any kind should never be allowed in the house and should not even be a topic of consideration if you are genuinely health-conscious.

5. Use Natural Cleaning and Deodorizing Products

In addition to the off-gassing of furniture, accessories, and other synthetic objects that occurs today in homes, as well as the use of toxic air fresheners, the third thing that increases toxins in the air and decreases the quality of indoor air is common household cleaners. This includes all bathroom, shower, toilet, window, oven, and other cleaners, as well as laundry detergents and dryer products that can come in the form of liquids, sprays, powders, pastes, etc. Just like air fresheners, conventional household cleaning products emit a wide range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fragrances that pose numerous risks to our health. These kinds of chemical compounds act as allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins, and carcinogens.

So while you want to keep your home environment clean and practice good hygiene habits, you do not want to do it with substances that are going to endanger your health. Instead, opt for any of the widely available non-toxic cleaning options that are available. You can find a substitute for any conventional cleaning product in a safer, less toxic, or non-toxic form. All health food stores, many online stores, and an increasing amount of grocery stores carry several brands of natural cleaning products that offer the same convenience of conventional products without the highly irritating scents and health risks. Of course, even amongst these, it is most recommend that you choose unscented or non-fragranced options as much as you can, as even so-called natural fragrances can trigger health problems. Remember, a scented home is no indication of a clean home and every manufactured fragrance carries some risk and degrades the indoor air quality.

If you want to use the most natural and non-toxic cleaning and deodorizing products, opt for the simplest options, namely baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda alone can be used to clean all sinks, tubs, showers, toilets, counters, and ceramic floors. It is naturally, gently abrasive, and can sanitize, deodorize, and remove smells. Vinegar is a pretty strong acid that makes it very good at sanitizing things, the way bleach would, but without the toxic effects of bleach, which is a potent alkaline substance. A vinegar-water solution is also an ideal window and glass cleaner. Alternatively, various natural home cleaning products can be made using either of these, along with other ingredients like lemon or lime juice, pure essential oils, and borax. Alternatively, or in addition to any of these options, one of the best natural and non-toxic home cleaning products is the Universal Stone, which can be used to clean pretty much any hard surface indoors and outdoors with deodorizing and polishing properties.

6. Get an Indoor Air Purifier

If you have conditions in your home or workplace that create a high degree of biological or chemical air pollution, then you may want to consider an indoor air purifier. Such a unit is especially important if you have kids or any family members with asthma, other respiratory conditions, or allergies, or if you live in a particularly polluted area or city. There are many kinds available today, from relatively cheap, portable units to built-in systems that can purify the air in your entire home. While those latter ones may seem like a significant investment at first, they may prove to be one of the best investments for you and your family’s health.

7. Use Completely Naturally Scented Products

If you must, because you enjoy certain scents or wish to introduce a specific aroma into your home, opt for completely natural options only. These include fresh flowers, dried herbs, spices, pure beeswax candles, or pure organic essential oils. For example, aromatherapy diffusers, which use essential oils can provide two benefits at once: they can fill your home space with a pleasant scent, and they can provide all kinds of health and healing benefits. Depending on the oils you use, essential oils can ease and prevent headaches, sinus congestion, improve sleep, sanitize the indoor air, promote relaxation effects, sharpen the mind, and much more.

8. Have Living Plants in Your Home

We are taught from an early age that trees and plants provide oxygen for us and help to clean the air. This is one of the many reasons why we should be protecting forests and green spaces at all costs, especially given the serious air pollution problems that we have. By having houseplants, we can also extend this benefit to our indoor home environment. Whether you have a small space or a large area, any kind of plant can help to purify the air in your home and beautify your space at the same time. The more that you have, the more benefits you get!

The Mother Nature Network provides an excellent article about 15 Houseplants for Improving Indoor Air Quality. The houseplants listed in it reflect only a tiny, but powerful, example of the plant kingdom’s potential to remove harmful chemicals that are found in our everyday products. Here is a summary of what they are capable of to reduce toxic indoor air quality:

  • Aloe Vera helps to remove formaldehyde and benzene
  • Spider Plant helps to remove benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene
  • Gerbera Daisy helps to remove trichloroethylene
  • Chrysanthemum helps to remove benzene
  • Red-Edged Dracaena helps to remove xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde
  • Weeping Fig and Peace Lily both help to remove formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene
  • Bamboo Palm helps to remove benzene and trichloroethylene
  • Heart Leaf Philodendron helps to remove all kinds of VOCs, including formaldehyde
  • Snake Plant, Golden Pothos, Azalea, and English Ivy all help to remove formaldehyde


The more you can approach your health in a holistic manner, meaning that you take into account all of the different factors that impact it and work toward effective and practical solutions, the more you will benefit your entire wellbeing. Regular exposure to fresh air, like access to high-quality water, should be one of our top priorities, as these two life-sustaining factors have such a tremendous impact on our physical and psychological health. In some cases, solutions to address them will be easy; in other cases, it will cause us to make some significant life changes. How you choose to proceed will all depend on your health needs, priorities, and lifestyle abilities. Just know that every step you take to reduce toxic indoor air quality and increase your exposure to fresh air is a step in the right direction.

To your best health always!

  1. 10 Questions Concerning Air Fresheners and Indoor Built Environments by AnneSteinemann ~ Building and Environment

  2. EWG’s Healthy Living Home Guide to Cleaners & Air Fresheners by Environmental Working Group

  3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals in Commercial Air Fresheners with Homemade Alternatives ~ Scientific American