Here’s why there’s more air pollution in winter – and what you can do about it

During the colder months, you’ll probably want to light the fire, close the windows, and get cozy. And when load shedding occurs, turn on the generator and continue with Netflix and chill. But if you want to stay healthy this winter, that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do — unless you’ve invested in an air purifier, says Trevor Brewer, director of air treatment and lifestyle specialist Solenco. Indoor air pollution can become a problem in winter.

In winter, the air gets a little dirtier, which can lead to respiratory diseases that can be fatal. According to the WHO, household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year in 2020, including over 237,000 deaths in children under the age of 5. Cooking with gas because of load shedding? Warning: These gases emit kerosene, which leads to harmful air pollution in homes, says the WHO.

Air pollution in winter – also indoors

In South Africa, the level of particulate matter (read: pollution) in our air is regularly above national standards. About 86% of South Africa’s primary energy supply comes from coal, and much of the particulate matter we breathe comes from generating electricity from coal, says Brewer.

And indoor air pollution can get bad. “Harmful are microscopic particles of toxic chemicals that are small enough to enter the bloodstream. Because they are so small, you can rest assured that they will be carried into your home. In fact, the concentration of pollutants and toxins in the air indoors can be two to five times higher than outdoors,” says Brewer.

Air pollution solutions

Stay ventilated

Keeping windows closed can help keep cold air out, but it also keeps polluted air in. Dust, fumes from household chemicals, emissions from appliances, bacteria and germs, pet dander, moisture and mold, and the pollutants discussed above are all present in your home when fresh air is not circulating. And with them come all the winter diseases.

You could stock up on medication to combat the symptoms that accompany seasonal changes, Brewer says, but he suggests preventing these negative effects by investing in an air purifier for your home or office.

Solenco Purification Pal

This device keeps the air in your home clean by forcing air through an ultra-fine mesh that traps pollutants. Look for a device with HEPA technology, like the Solenco Purification Pal, which removes 99.8% of particles as small as 0.3 microns from the air.

Humidify your air

Especially in the cooler months, the dryness of the air can be a health hazard. For people with airway or lung problems, cold, dry air narrows the airways and makes it difficult to breathe. Even if you are healthy, dry air can cause pain, inflammation and headaches, asthma, allergies and hay fever, itchy, uncomfortable skin and nosebleeds. What works? A humidifier that can freshen the air by injecting purified water into your environment.

Xiaomi Humidifier 2 Lite

According to Brewer, an evaporative humidifier is a great way to keep indoor air at optimal humidity levels and remove airborne contaminants to improve your comfort and health. A smaller unit caters for a bedroom or living area, while a whole-home unit can be 4,000 square feet.

Invest in air-purifying plants

Some houseplants can emit toxic chemicals like formaldehyde, benzene, and trichlorethylene into the air. It’s important that you clean your plants anyway, as dust can collect on the leaves, which can lead to allergies.

Look for plants like English ivy, bamboo palm, and aloe vera. Snake plants are extremely pretty indoors and also help purify the air.

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