Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality

Let’s talk about where we spend 90% of our time

January 21, 2021 | Published by O2

It is estimated that the average person spends 90% of their time indoors whether that be at home, work, school, at a shopping mall or a gym. With stay-at-home regulations now in order, for many different parts of the globe, we are most likely spending even more time indoors. What lurks in the air that we breathe indoors from the kitchen, to the bathroom; from being a couch potato to making decisions in the c-suite office?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that on average 7 million people a year die as a result of air pollution. WHO also estimates that more than half of those deaths are attributed to household air pollution; a shockingly high number that we should indeed pay more attention to.

When we think of air quality we often associate it with the pollution we see outdoors; gas pumping out from a city bus, excessive smoke expelling from a fire, and large puffs of fume coming from a steel factory, are typically some of the visuals that come to mind. We generally dismiss the fact that our air indoors can have major consequences to our health.  

It’s time that we give indoor air pollution some serious attention.

A New York Times article explains it this way: 

“Virtually every household and office building is a potential source of excessive amounts of one or another toxic pollutant – nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, formaldehyde, radon (a radioactive product of radium), sulphur dioxide, asbestos, not to mention the chemicals in hairsprays, deodorants, oven cleaners, paints, pesticides, laundry aids, floor and furniture polishes, glue and, ironically, air fresheners.

Your kitchen range, fireplace, heater, rugs, walls, furniture, clothing, even the sheets you sleep on, can be significant sources of indoor air pollutants.”

According to the  EPA, indoor air pollutants can be 2 to 5 times – and in some extreme cases 100 times – worse than outdoor air pollutants. To be more informed about indoor air quality, we need to be more acquainted with which pollutants are causing us the most harm.

Indoor air pollutants & possible symptoms

There is a long list of pollutants that can have concerning effects to our health when consistently exposed to; some of these pollutants are quite familiar to us. Pollutants like dust, mold, and pet dander can commonly be found between the cushions of our couch or in the crevices of our bathroom. Household items like cleaning products, paint, and gas stoves can also emit dangerous pollutants into the air that we breathe. While these familiar items appear to be relatively harmless, they can have a long lasting impact on our overall health.

Indoor air pollutants contribute to many aggravating symptoms; some that may be experienced quickly while others may take years to notice. The difficulty with many of these symptoms is that they can often be mistaken or misdiagnosed as simply having a cold or the flu. A non exhaustive list of symptoms may include irritation of the eyes and throat, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and even allergies and asthma. If these symptoms are left untreated for long enough they can have long-term health effects including respiratory and heart disease, as well as some cancers.

Easy steps to take to improve your home’s air quality 

There are many easy things one can do to improve the air quality of their home. Here are a couple tips to help get you started:

  • Clean your home regularly – vacuum and dust all areas where dust might gather
  • Ventilate your home on a regular basis – draw on fresh air from the outdoors to circulate into the house
  • Control sources of pollution that enter your home – educate yourself on the products you use and the potential harmful ingredients they are made of
  • Keep humidity levels down – if you live in an area that is warm and wet think about investing in a dehumidifier
  • Spend more time outside – if air levels air safe enough to do so (check out the AQI blog to learn more)

When the average person spends 90% of their time indoors it is incumbent on each individual to ensure that the air they breathe is clean. For that to occur we need to be more cognizant of the pollutants that contribute to poor air quality and the resulting symptoms that lead to poor health.  Breathing clean air is a collective responsibility. Each person has a part to play, and if we do it well we can expect to live long healthy lives.

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