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12 Nov 2019

Are you breathing polluted air?

Last year the New Zealand Herald reported that the air city people are breathing in their homes can expose them to health problems related to inhaling pollutants.

There’s growing evidence that the air in New Zealand’s cities is less than clean. Air quality is generally measured by the amount of particulate (PM) matter in the air, which gets there from sources like car exhausts and fires used for heating. In areas where people use wood burners to heat their homes, the amount of PM in internal air is a worry.

Other contributors to indoor air pollution include pollen, cooking, household dust (especially in homes that are carpeted), too much moisture, fumes from cleaning products, tobacco smoke and pet dander. Indoor air can also include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene and formaldehyde, as well as dust mites and air-borne bacteria.

The Herald story quotes Dr Bill Trompetter, an atmospheric scientist at GNS Science, who says our exposure to PMs might even be higher inside than outside, "with a consequent greater impact on our health outcomes".

Trompetter continued to say that more deaths were related to indoor than outdoor air pollution. "Exposure and health risk from poor indoor air quality needs to be addressed similar to that of outdoor air quality," he said. "The public awareness and concern around indoor air quality issues and impact is growing."


There’s a growing trend for monitoring indoor air quality using IAQ (indoor air quality) monitors. These devices report on the levels of common pollutants in your home.

The best IAQ monitoring systems report on things like excessive dust, high humidity, fumes from household cleaners and emissions from building materials (often a problem for very new or recently-renovated homes).

Air quality monitors vary in price. You can get a basic Xiaomi IAQ monitor for as little as $130, mailed from China. Or you can pay as much as $1650 for a fancy model from Testo, a New Zealand company that specialises in emission measurement devices.

Another strategy is to put that money towards a Xgen by Unovent® home ventilation system with PollenGuard®. This system is a specialised form of the Unovent positive pressure home ventilation (PPV) system. It incorporates an industrial-grade G4 pre-filter, along with an ultra-thin PollenGuard® Helix™ filter media to remove harmful particles from outside air before it enters your home. PollenGuard has been designed to be the best pollen filter for home use and it’s often recommended for asthmatics and people who suffer from hay fever. Each room outlet has a built-in filter system to capture small, harmful airborne particles all year round.