Why Air Pollution Is Worse Inside Your Home Than Outside

We know that air pollution is all around us. Every metro has challenges with harmful carbon dioxide emissions and toxic petrol fumes, especially during peak traffic. You would think that you would be safe from air pollution when inside your home. But what you face indoors may be even more damaging.

Indoor air pollution, the degradation of indoor air quality by harmful chemicals and other materials, can be up to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution. This is because contained areas enable potential pollutants to build up more than open spaces do. Outdoor air quality is continuously monitored and traffic is restricted when it is necessary. These facilities do not occur with indoor air. Furthermore, outdoor pollutants are unstable as they raise and fall due to traffic and weather.

Our homes are more insulated and consequently, more air polluted. This is of immense concern because studies from the EPA show that we spend up to 90% of the time indoors. The number raises up even more with people that suffer more the consequences of air pollution such as children and elderly.

Indoor concentrations of some air pollutants have increased in recent decades due to such factors as energy-efficient building construction and increased use of synthetic building materials. The reduction of air leakage along with the lack of sufficient ventilation cannot permit toxic pollutants to go outdoors.

There are more than 60 sources of indoor air pollution. Ethylene is contained in air fresheners, cleaning products contain harmful chemicals like alcohol, chlorine, ammonia or petroleum-based solvents, gas kitchen stoves emit nitrogen dioxide. Smoke, paint, plastics, cleaning supplies, and other common household items, including furniture and carpets, can release harmful pollutants into our indoor air. Among the various toxic substances, the most common and dangerous are Carbon Dioxide and Volatile Organic Compounds.

As indoor air pollution has no immediate visible effects on our health, it is more difficult to perceive the negative impact it could have on the quality of our life and well-being. However, ill effects from air pollution may arise after just a single exposure as well as repeated exposure. It is important to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.

Short-term exposure may lead to coughing, eye-watering, shortness of breath, skin itchiness, and irritation of parts of the respiratory tract.

Long-term exposure may lead to accelerated aging, stressed heart, infections and the development of diseases such as asthma and bronchitis.

There are 3 main strategies to improve indoor air quality.

 

Improve Ventilation

There are many factors that can impact the air quality of your home, but the majority of air quality issues are linked to improper ventilation. One approach to lowering the concentrations of indoor air pollutants in your home is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors.

 

Control Pollution Sources

Eliminate individual sources of pollution or reduce their emission to improve indoor air quality.

 

Use Air Purifiers

The effectiveness of air purifiers depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element.

 

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/inside-story-guide-indoor-air-quality)

Last updated on May 27, 2019

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