Indoor air pollution and the modern closed house

We are often told about outdoor air pollution, heavy traffic, bush fires and the like that can be dangerous when acute and also long term. However you can get bad air indoors too and has the added problems that it is often circulated around and around and we keep breathing it in each time.

This article Too many smelly candles takes another look at the problem. This excerpt will give you the flavour:

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), levels of indoor air pollutants are typically more than three times higher than outdoors.

Sources of indoor pollution can be many: cooking, heating, scented cleaning products, and also the products we use to deodorise our living or working spaces – whether they’re candles, diffusers, room sprays, gels, beads or other products.

Indoor air pollution comes from a myriad of sources and can be in the form of droplets, gasses or solid particles. The author skips over some (like manufactured goods that out-gas) mentions others (cleaning products) but focuses on those we introduce deliberately to make the air smell “better”. Ironically the last group can actually be bad for us in some cases, as the author points out. I was somewhat disappointed that the author did not join the dots between the types of pollution and where they come from and hence how to deal with each but the piece may have been edited unsympathetically.

The closing advice is:

Some other measures you may consider to make your indoor environment cleaner and healthier are frequently ventilating spaces, using vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters, using air purifiers, surrounding yourself with greenery, and cleaning regularly.

That pretty well covers it. The observant reader will have noticed that the best advice - to open the windows - contradicts the routine that we are given to save energy in our air-conditioned house, to have a well insulated house and to make sure the doors and windows seal well.

The way I handle that is to ventilate at the best time. In summer my house is open in the cooler hours (depending of weather) from midnight til dawn. This not only clears the air but cools the house for a good start in the morning. In winter it is open during the warmer hours in early afternoon where possible. The aircon goes off then of course.

A further confession, I hate strong perfume, air freshener that is worse than what it tries to cover, scented candles and those bubbly gurgling misty smelly gadgets that purport to improve the air. I have to leave if bleach is deployed. The result is, due to obligations of domestic compromise, the burning kind are banned but we do have the noncombustible type, but not very often.

Do you find juggling air freshness and other considerations such as energy efficiency and personal taste a problem?


A major reason for the problem of unhealthy scented products is the ease at which people get sucked in by marketing, believing that something is not clean unless it smells “clean”.

The issue does not get a lot of media, possibly because there is too much money made creating the problem and not much to be made by removing it. Unfortunately, the spreaders of scent are unlikely to change their ways unless they realise that they are adversely affecting themselves or someone close to them.

I wonder if it is just co-incidence that the gender most likely to buy and use fragrant products is the same as the gender that suffer more from things like asthma and migraines as adults.

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When it comes to consumers being ‘sucked in’ none of us can avoid marketing directed according to
gender perceptions. Fast cars or oversized tyres for our more than adequate 4WD’s. Perhaps helped along with a bucket load of protein shake on the bench. Most gambling adds target one stereo type.

Which came first.
Were we ever gender biased in the ways marketers say we are and they are only serving our preferences,
did marketing create the images of gender perfection to which we should aspire and in return we seek their products?

For those looking for precedent to what might be more natural, look to the obsessions and flamboyance of male fashion, scents and other manly adornments of just about any well off household prior to the French Revolution.


Yes it is just coincidence.

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Perhaps not. What is the evidence to support your definite statement?

The below article provides an example of someone who disagrees with your view.

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Here is one of many articles that explain why women get asthma more than men in very similar terms: hormones.

The Guardian item that you linked to talks about fragrance sensitivity and gives the example of one woman who suffers from it, it does not provide any general explanation as to why women get asthma more than men or if or why they have fragrance sensitivity more than men.

I don’t see that disagrees with me saying the tendency of women to have these problems is unrelated to whether they like deodoriser. Of course if you have these problems playing with deodoriser or perfume will give you more symptoms than if you don’t.


What are the most commonly attributed causes of asthma around the home and residential environments?

For adult asthma sufferers in developed nations, EG USA, there is a statistically bias towards different population groups as well as women. Is it also significant that many are also those most likely to be doing the everyday cleaning, and having greater exposure to contributing causes?

There’s varying views as to why some of us adults are more prone to asthma than others. Should I suggest who is less at risk and better able to take on the daily cleaning role? :wink:

Dust mites from bedding and carpets, build up of mould, exposure to irritant chemicals emitted by common household cleaners, tobacco use residue, disturbance of collected dusts and pollens, are some of the most commonly related risks.


In my experience it’s the male gender which overuses scents, possibly in the belief that if it smells clean it passes inspection. Over the years I’ve especially tried to educate the men in my life that subtlety with aftershave is appreciated, but I’ve had little success.


We are wandering off topic but I am yet to find any women who find perfume (even if called aftershave) attractive on a man. I presume there must be some, somewhere. Those I know seem to be divided between freshly washed (which usually features the owner’s soap as well as skin) and somewhat, but not excessively, au naturel. If the ladies here want to do a poll and provide insight maybe one will start a new thread.

The wife woman is one. She keeps prompting me to ‘freshen the aftershave up’ if I/we go anywhere.

I could so get into trouble here …

I hope you weren’t suggesting I may have a

scent she wishes to hide. :rofl:

Over the course of years, I have encountered quite a few people who said they were allergic (or were very seriously intolerant) to any forms of scent; whether that is soap, cologne, perfume, aftershave, scented lotions, room fresheners, carpet or floor cleaning products, dishwashing liquids (on cutlery, crockery, glassware) , toilet sprays, hairsprays, etc, etc.

Until these people, I had never thought about all the forms of scent that pervades our lives.


Looking to the latest trends in energy efficient housing.

It looks like being closeted behind fewer and smaller wall openings - widows, and triple glazing is how it’s done. What’s in your air is what was mine just moments earlier.

We’re students of the @syncretic school of opening up the home (insect screens essential) to let the cooler or warmer air in and stale air out, season dependant. All fresh and ready perfumed subject to season and what’s flowering. If one is going to get a mild allergic reaction from a scent it might as well be 100% organic and natural. The local bees have certified it. :relieved:

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I have had acute sensitivities to fumes, scents and smells for many years. And I am in touch with many people like myself.

I am meeting an increasing number of people who have strong aversion to the smells of the laundry aisle in the supermarket. Laundry detergents, fabric softeners and the like are designed to leave very strong smells in clothing, supposedly to give them a “clean smell”.

For those who are sensitized to these odours, not only are the smells thoroughly objectionable, but they often bring on headaches or flu like symptoms as a reaction to the inhaled compounds.
This is very problematic as they inevitably have to share the same space and breathe the same air as those who launder their clothes with these products.

The odours from the laundry aisle permeate the air throughout the whole supermarket, and are readily absorbed by other items in the supermarket - and this includes some foods such as meat and some vegetables. I can tell if a person has bought meat from the supermarket simply by the sniff test - does is reek of laundry product odours?
Anything bought from the supermarket is laden with laundry product odours, but the fact that it even gets into our food would seem to be outrageous to me.



This is more common than people realise.


An Aussie has written a book about it
The Case Against Fragrance, by Kate Grenville

I buy scent-free, perfume-free as much as possible. Quite a few things are not allowed inside the home.
Bit by bit the choice of scent-free things is improving:-
Scent free shampoo and scent free hair conditioner
Scent free antiperspirant
Scent free talculm powder
Scent free shower wash
Scent free moisturiser
Scent free cosmetics
Scent free sun screen
Scent free hand wash
Scent free hand sanitiser
Scent free floor wash (white vinegar)
Low scent laundry detergent (yet to find a scent free one)
Low scent laundry soaker (yet to find a scent free one)
Scent free dishwasher tablets
and so on


I’ve been using OMO Sensitive laundry powder for years and find it to be scent free enough for me. There is a liquid version of this product BUT unfortunately it does leave a heady smell in you clothes.
Surf also released a laundry powder called “Surf Sensitive” and it was similar to OMO sensitive but I have not seen it in the shops for a few years now.

I do understand the problems here. Often I find the laundry product smell emanating from the clothes on the neighbours’ clothes line is so overpowering and unpleasant, and I have to shut my house up to prevent the stench from entering my house.
Lemon fresh and other laundry products can be problematic for me when I have to work with people whose clothes have been washed in this stuff. Body heat causes their clothing to release these ghastly over the top fragrances and I and up reacting with flu like symptoms.

I recently bought 3 pairs of rather nice brand new pants from the op shop, but after 3 complete wash-rinse-spin cycles and a few weeks 24/7 hanging on the clothes line through rain wind and sunshine, the laundromat smell still permeated the pants and I had to give them away.

Herbon have a range of fragrance free products, some of which work quite well. Herbon Fragrance Free dishwashing liquid works quite well.
Ecover have a fragrance free dishwashing liquid “Ecover Free” which works quite well. It has a slight earthy smell but this is nothing like the heavy and unpleasant fragrances associated with most big name dishwashing liquids.

Balnea Sorbolene Unscented Bar Soap (from Woolworths) is a good fragrance free soap. $4 for a box of three soaps.

I’m currently having a problem with my housemate who insists of putting one of those ghastly smelling Bref toilet bowl “fresheners” in the toilet here.

And one final complaint while I’m on a roll - some of those cosmetic products which people douse themselves with, particularly men, smell to me like they should be going into the petrol tank of your car. I find it unbelievable that people apply this stuff to their bodies and somehow think it makes them smell nice!!

Many years ago I had dreadful problems with the heavy smell of whiteboard markers in the classroom. But it seems I was not the only person having problems because the manufacturers changed the solvent used in those markers to a “low odour” formula and it made all the difference.

So there are a few examples where manufacturers have taken note of complaints and made adjustments which have worked for me and other people as well.
Rexona Super Sport deodorant (on other people) was another big problem for me, but it is many years since I have smelt that awful stuff and from this I assume perhaps Rexona responded to complaints and changed the formula.?


3 posts were split to a new topic: Are granite bench tops in the home a radiation hazard?

Well, yes they should…
But given that those who object to fragrances on health or other grounds are in the minority, and the chemical companies that manufacture them and those celebrities and pop stars who endorse these products are raking in squillions in profits, I doubt this will happen very soon.

I did read an article some years back that claimed the “White House” had imposed a “fragrance free zone” policy. A great idea but awfully difficult to police.
Some time back I had a dreadful problem with a female at my place of work who was dousing herself with awful perfume every day. When I complained about it, she responded that “she doesn’t wear perfume - she wears cologne”.
Go figure??!!


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You will likely get similar responses from people covering themselves with body spray and other scents that don’t have the word “perfume” written in large text on the label.