What is indoor air pollution and why is it dangerous?
When we think of air pollution, often we think of the outdoor air polluters such as cars and factories. Even though indoor air pollution is often invisible, it is just as dangerous and can have a big impact on our health. Studies from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States of America have found that indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels, and can sometimes even be 100 times higher.1
We spend a lot of time indoors both at home and in our workplaces, so it is important that our air is as clean as possible. This is even more crucial today when so many of us are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources of Indoor Air Pollution Can Vary
Indoor air pollution can come from sources inside the building, such as from tobacco smoke; cooking stoves that use gas, wood, or kerosene; dust; and mould (like the kind that grows on walls). Pollution can also come from outside sources like vehicle emissions and smoke. These pollutants can enter the home through doors, windows, and gaps in walls. Common air pollutants in homes and workplaces include particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).
Indoor Air Pollution Affects Our Health
Just like outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution is unsafe because it affects our health. These impacts are not just annoying but potentially hazardous. Short-term effects include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; difficulty breathing; headaches; dizziness; and tiredness. Long-term effects can be more serious, such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and even cancer. These impacts more often occur when exposure to indoor air pollution occurs over a long period of time, such as using wood-burning stoves for many years.
People can react very differently to indoor air pollution, too – some people may be irritated by certain pollutants while other people are not affected. One common example is a reaction to pet saliva and dander (dead flakes of skin shed by cats and dogs), where some people are greatly affected and others aren’t bothered at all
There Are Steps To Improving Air Quality
Fortunately, there are ways we can improve indoor air quality. By understanding how our air gets polluted, monitoring air quality using an indoor air quality monitor, improving our homes and workplaces, and using air purifiers, we can reduce the impact on our health.