Ventilation is one of the biggest factors when considering the health of a living environment. Unfortunately, ventilation takes a back seat when winter hits. Instinctively we close the windows and turn up the heat.
Indoor air specialist Richard Walter says allowing in a bit of outdoor air may offer an important health boost during the winter months.
Walter, head of A+ Engineering Construction in Nevada, says building construction has changed in recent years, which means buildings are tighter than ever.
We live in a ziploc plastic bag and it's terrible for our health.
The solution, according to Walter, is access to outdoor air.
You need clean air for your lungs. You don't get clean air inside your house.
Walter suggests leaving a window open two inches or less in your bedroom every night. It may cost you $10 or more each month, he says, but the health benefits outweigh the additional costs.
In fact, Walter believes we are putting our comfort ahead of our well-being. By limiting our exposure to outdoor air and relying on a thermostat to monitor our indoor air, we add to the level of hazardous contaminants in the form of volatile organic compounds. These VOCs become more active at higher temperatures, causing us to breathe in more toxic substances. In addition, the warmer temperatures heighten microbial growth which can breed illness.
Germany is a strong proponent of healthy ventilation and readily encourages open windows in the winter months.
According to one blogger who now lives and works in Germany, the German "cultural obsession" with fresh air is in stark contrast with the United States:
In the US, the office buildings that I worked in all had sealed windows. The entire building was closed and kept climate controlled. You couldn't open the windows even if you wanted to.
Now living and working in Germany, Andrew Couch sees lots of open windows in the middle of winter. When asked about the cultural difference between the U.S. and Germany, one coworker quipped,
Germans need fresh air. Americans need air fresheners.
It's never too late to change our habits when it comes to fresh air. Why not invest in a new comforter or a warm pair of socks, and open a window this winter?