Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re hosting family and other guests at your house for dinner this year, you’ve probably already begun to prepare for such a busy day. Being the host on Thanksgiving is no small task, and although you’ll be working hard to make sure your guests are comfortable–what if you could be unknowingly harming their health?
It all comes down to how you choose to cook Thanksgiving dinner.
Don’t worry! We’re not talking about your recipes–we’re actually talking about your air quality.
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy, safe, and won’t have much effect on us since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, productivity, and more–even our quality of sleep.
Our air is filled with a variety of different factors that determine how healthy it is, including its levels of carbon dioxide, humidity, temperature, chemicals, and Fine Dust.
The type of chemicals typically found in your air are called VOCs: volatile organic compounds. “VOC” is an umbrella term used to describe any organic chemical that evaporates easily at room temperature–and this trait is what helps make VOCs very common. You’ll find VOCs in the ingredients list in paint, cleaning supplies, common household products, adhesives–even cribs and other furniture. Exposure to VOCs has been known to cause headaches, nausea, trigger skin conditions like eczema, and heighten asthma symptoms.
Another common component of our air are particles known as Fine Dust. Fine Dust, specifically known as PM2.5, is particulate matter that can be found in the air that is incredibly small–a single particle has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which means you can easily fit 40 fine dust particles across the width of a single strand of hair. Fine Dust size renders it practically invisible; it can only be detected with an electron microscope. Although it may be small, Fine Dust shouldn’t be underestimated–in fact, its size is what makes it more formidable. Unlike larger (and more visible) dust particles, PM2.5 are able to bypass your nose and throat and be absorbed by your lungs and bloodstream.
So what does your air quality have to do with Thanksgiving? Much more than many of us realize, since one of the most common activities that increase VOCs and Fine Dust in your home is cooking.
Oil and grease from stovetop cooking will evaporate into your air, sometimes turning into smoke that is filled with Fine Dust. If you use a gas stove, carbon monoxide and other harmful VOCs can also leak into your air.
Since you’ll most likely be doing more cooking than usual on Thanksgiving, it’s very important to be aware of how it might be affecting your guests. Short-term effects of VOC exposure have been known to cause dizziness, coughing and sneezing, headaches, nausea, sinus congestion, and irritated eyes, nose, throat, and skin. On the other hand, exposure to Fine Dust can have detrimental health effects, and has been known to lead to coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, irritation of the eyes/nose/throat, and can trigger asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.
How can you keep your guests safe and comfortable this Thanksgiving? The answer is simple: with plenty of fresh air!
Here are a few quick tips to keep your guests safe and healthy:
- Be sure to have plenty of open windows throughout your home to promote a healthy flow of fresh air, which will help clean out any VOCs and Fine Dust that may be lingering.
- If the weather won’t let you comfortably have windows open, turning on a few fans (and exhaust fans in your kitchen) will help pull VOCs and Fine Dust from the air as well.
One of the best ways to make sure the air in your home is healthy for you and your guests is by understanding what actually is in your air with the help of an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air and provides you with personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy.