BREATHE more easily at home with these tips, writes Abi Jackson

THE idea that our homes can make us ill is far from claptrap – ask anybody with a lung condition, like asthma for instance, and things like indoor air quality can be extremely important. There's even a term for it: Toxic Home Syndrome.

"This occurs when individuals and families are exposed to a potent mix of airborne pollutants within the home, arising from poor ventilation, causing respiratory and skin diseases to occur more frequently," explains Southampton University professor of allergy and respiratory medicine Peter Howarth, speaking on behalf of BEAMA's My Health My Home campaign (

Things like mould, damp and condensation play a big part in Toxic Home Syndrome. Symptoms can include fatigue, dizziness, headaches and respiratory problems, while young children and the elderly, or people with pre-existing health problems, are often most at risk. In more serious cases, indoor air pollution could even contribute to major illnesses including cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.

Here are Professor Howarth's five top tips for avoiding Toxic Home Syndrome...

1. Clean your air: Make sure you have adequate ventilation in your home to take out the pollutants and moisture that can build up. All sorts of household products including candles and cleaners contain potentially dangerous pollutants, and if these aren't removed through ventilation, they simply build up in your home.

2. Wooden flooring: Carpets harbour dirt, dust mites, pet hair, fungus and other potentially harmful particles that can aggravate the lungs. Swapping carpet for wooden flooring makes it easier to keep clean.

3. Go green when you clean: Use eco cleaning products which have fewer toxins and pollutants in them. Non-eco household cleaners can release formaldehyde when they come in to contact with the air, a substance linked to cancer.

4. Curtain call: Change your shower curtain regularly to reduce mold growth which releases spores and toxins into the air. These can cause or exacerbate respiratory and skin conditions such as asthma and eczema.

5. Cut the moisture: Shut the bathroom door when showering, wipe down wet surfaces, put on your extractor fan and cover your pans when cooking. Excessive moisture allows dust mites and mould to thrive, can aid bacterial growth and affect the survival of viruses.

You should also watch what you burn indoors. A 'real' fire, as opposed to modern central heating, might seem like an appealing style statement, but what you burn indoors could contribute to toxic air. Stoves, particularly older models, are contributing to the air pollution problem. Candles can be a problem, too. Many scented candles use paraffin wax, which gives off the toxic carcinogens benzene and toluene when burned. Opt for candles using only natural waxes like soy, rapeseed, plant and beeswax.

You could also harness some plant power. As well as looking good and nurturing a sense of calm, certain house plants could even help clean up the air in your home. Homebase's new Air So Pure range (from £4-£10 each, features plants with especially good air-purifying qualities, helping 'reduce air pollutants by up to 80 per cent'. "Introducing plants into your home not only creates a fresh look, but it's also a cost-effective way to naturally boost oxygen levels, improve humidity in your home and enhance your overall wellbeing," says Homebase greenlife buyer, Gillian Bush.

Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis) are one of the best plants when it comes to removing formaldehyde from the air. It's non-toxic so is a great addition to any house, and the feathery ferns look beautiful spilling out of hanging or elevated pots. Aloe Vera is already well known for its health benefits, but one of the plant's lesser known benefits is how well it can remove benzene and formaldehyde from the air. Finally, Spider Plants (Chlorophytum) are great for eliminating significant amounts of formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and ammonia from the air. They don't need lots of attention so are perfect for those who are a bit forgetful or are just starting out.