Indoor

Indoor air quality. Is the air in your home good for you?

For most of us, it comes as a surprise to know that the air on a street with moderate traffic could be less polluted than the air in your living room. Recent studies show that some pollutants could be in a higher number in our home than outside. In the past, pollution from inside our homes wasn’t a priority. The effect of poor indoor air quality started to be more visible.

Imagine a house recently painted also with new furniture. Or your workplace where there is a strong smell of cleaning products. Indoor air quality can vary considerably due to the construction equipment used, cleaning products, how we use the room, or how we ventilate. Air quality can be very dangerous for vulnerable groups like children, seniors, or persons with chronic diseases like asthma.

Main pollutants are:

  • Radon – a radioactive gas from the soil that can lead to lung issues and cancer.
  • CO – (carbon monoxide) effects are headaches, dizziness, nausea, and can lead to death when inhaled in large doses.
  • CO2 – (carbon dioxide) the same as in CO case.
  • NO2 – ( Nitrogen dioxide) effects include irritation of eyes and through, heavy breathing, and airways infections.
  • VOC – (volatile organic compounds) can get into the lungs and with a long exposure, can lead to respiratory diseases.
  • HCHO – (formaldehyde) from construction materials, with a long exposure, can lead to respiratory diseases.
  • Pollen – effects include irritation of eyes, nose, and through,
  • Humidity – has different effects depending on the amount. Insufficient humidity in the air can lead to effects like irritation of eyes and through, Too much humidity in the air can lead to bacteria formations.

Political Measures

People are more aware of some of the pollutants then others. An examples banning smoking cigarettes in public spaces.

Indoor air quality is affected by smoking

In many countries, smoking in public places was very controversial until a law was passed. In Spain, in 2006, when smoking was banned from indoor public places, there was a big movement against, because the people were thinking it is their right. Also, the interdiction made the population more aware. In the days that follow, on average, 25000 Spanish persons were seeking professional help to quit smoking.

Public perception changed drastically concerning smoking in public places and public transport. Air companies were banning smoking on short flights since 1980 and in long flights since 1990. In our days, it is not accepted that non-smoking persons to be exposed to smoke in public transport.

In current times, the majority of countries have laws that ban or limit smoking in public places. After a series of recommendations, the European Union has adopted in 2009, a resolution that requests all the member countries to protect the people from passive smoking in public places.

Laws against smoking have improved indoor air quality in public spaces. Pollutants from cigarette smoke have been reduced up to 88% when smoking in public places was stopped. Bad indoor air quality has also an economic impact. In 2008, up to 1.3 billion euros was spent on healthcare for illnesses due to passive smoking. Also, there was over 1.1 billion euro loss of productivity in the workplace due to passive smoking.

Not only smoking affects indoor air quality

We are not living pollution at the door when we enter our homes. The majority of pollutants from the environment can easily get in. Indoor air quality is affected by a lot of other factors like cooking, burning fuels like wood and coal, candles, construction materials, cleaning chemicals. And let’s not forget about Radon which is generated by the soil and construction materials.

Indoor air quality affected by cooking.

Smoke from cooking causes 3.8 million premature deaths per year. Usually, low and mid-income countries are affected. Burning fuels in inefficient stoves produce particulate matters of different sizes, CO, VOC, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

Particulate matter is a big concern. Smaller diameter particles like PM 2.5 and less, are more dangerous because they can penetrate tissues and organs. Exposure to these pollutants affects children and adults and can be respiratory illnesses, eye problems, or cancer. Members of houses that rely on burning fuels also have a higher risk of burning or poisoning.

Not only laws can help increase air quality. We can individually try to improve the air from our homes. First, I recommend measuring the air quality and you can find a complete guide here. Based on needs, there are several improvement methods starting with ventilation. You can find a complete post on ventilation here.

FAQ

How bad is pollution?

Around 2 million people die from air pollution every year. More than half are from developing countries. In many cities of developed or developing countries, there are risks to health from exposure to PM and ozone.

What is the health impact of air pollution?

Air pollution increases the risk of respiratory and heart disease. Health is impacted by both short and long-term exposure. Risks are higher for children, elderly people, or persons with chronic illnesses.

What are the most polluted cities?

In top there are Asian cities like Beijing and New Delhi. Also Latin America cities like Lima and Arequipa, and Africa, Cairo.
The health effects are seen also in more cleaner cities from Europe and North America.

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