We worry when air quality makes headlines in cities around the world, but what about the quality of the air indoors, where we spend 90% of our time? Outdoor air pollution in the form of particulate matter doesn’t stop at our doors or windows. In fact, additional sources of particulate matter are found all over our indoor spaces, from chemicals in cleaning supplies, building products, furniture and carpeting, to pet dander, mold, bacteria, dust mites and even radon gas in many areas.
Air quality control crucial
The places where we spend the most time are loaded with particulate matter that impacts our health and, perhaps most importantly, the health of our children. Breathing in harmful particulate matter of any size has been linked in many scientific studies to significant health problems including asthma, chronic bronchitis and decreasing lung function. Studies have also found that children face higher risks from the detrimental effects of airborne pollution. Children breathe faster than adults and their lungs are still developing, magnifying the impacts of breathing in harmful particulates.
How to improve indoor air quality
Purifying the air where we live and play has never been more important. There are two ways to do it: increasing ventilation and/or using indoor air purifiers. Adding ventilation is a double-edged sword. Bringing more outside air in may add outdoor pollutants to indoor air. On the other hand, it may also equalize what is typically poorer quality indoor air with less toxic – but still polluted – outdoor air.
Fortunately, independent evidence indicates that using indoor air purifiers with advanced air cleaning technologies can make a big difference, removing allergens associated with pets, dust mites, mold and bacteria as well as cold and flu viruses. They have also been proven by independent research to rid indoor air of PM10 and PM2.5 particles, including dust, traffic and industrial particles, as well as the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in cleaning products such as chlorine, ammonia, paints, floor polishes, furnishings – even air fresheners.
Find out more about some of the specific issues related to home air quality, from bedrooms to basements to kitchens, and from renovating a room to bringing home a baby.
Find out how to protect yourself from the health effects of air pollution
What is air pollution? Put simply, an air pollutant is any substance in the air that can have a negative effect on humans and the ecosystem. Sources of outdoor pollution include the usual suspects – automobiles, industry, construction, photochemical smog, ozone and more. These days, climate change has also led to earlier snow melts, hotter springs and summers, with smoke from longer wildfire seasons increasingly becoming an issue.
But just shutting the world out doesn’t solve the problem, since there are indoor sources of pollution, too. In fact, most chemical contaminants originate indoors from things like air fresheners, cleaning products, carpet and vinyl flooring, adhesives, paint and more.
Health effects of pollution
Exposure to indoor air pollution affects all animals – you, your family and your pets. It has been linked to the development of everything from infections to asthma to lung cancer. It can also cause less serious side effects such as headaches, nasal congestion, nausea, fatigue and dry eyes. If you suffer from an existing lung condition, you will be at a greater risk of experiencing symptoms.
How to protect yourself
So how can you protect yourself from air pollution? Ventilation alone won’t do it, because indoor pollutant levels can increase if not enough outdoor air is brought in to dilute pollutants in indoor air and can also increase from outdoor pollutants coming indoors.
You might not be able to affect the traffic pattern in your street or the wildfire upwind, but to reduce indoor air pollution, we do suggest looking at your complete home environment to see which products may be releasing VOCs and reduce them if possible. We also suggest you consider an air purifier with the correct filter for the pollutants in your home, whether particles, smoke or volatile organic compounds.
Articles in this section explain some of the challenges and offer ideas on how to protect yourself from the health effects of air pollution.