Air Clean Up

Is Indoor Air Pollution a Bigger Threat than Outdoor?

Mar 08 2018 Read 705 Times

Air pollution is potentially the biggest threat to human life on the planet at this minute. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 90% of the Earth’s population are exposed to dangerously poor air quality all the time, resulting in more than seven million premature deaths every year.

However, there is a preconception that these deaths are mostly caused by outdoor, or ambient, air pollution. The reality is that while outdoor air quality does cause three million of those deaths, the lion’s share can be attributed to bad air quality inside our homes and workplaces.

Indoor vs outdoor

Five years ago, a study from Sheffield University found that air quality inside a home could be as much as three times more deadly than that found on the streets. At the time it was something of a revelation, but new research indicates that the situation might have deteriorated in the interim, instead of having improved.

Now, it’s believed that air quality could be five times poorer indoors than out. Given that some of us spend more than 90% of our time inside, that should come as a very worrying statistic indeed.

What causes indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution can come from a variety of sources. There are often harmful chemicals found in cleaning products and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paints, while even things as apparently innocuous as children’s toys, textiles and furniture can contain damaging contaminants. What’s more, the gases and toxins released during frying can be a danger to our health as well.

All of these pollutants often stay in the atmosphere inside our homes for far longer than they might in an ambient atmosphere. That’s because there’s literally nowhere for them to go and no way for them to disperse; opening windows and increasing ventilation can help, but as closed spheres, homes are a breeding ground for poor air quality.

What can be done?

There are a variety of ways in which we can reduce air pollution. As mentioned above, opening windows (especially during or after rainfall) can help to cleanse the air, while investing in technology such as air purifiers and extractor fans can be worthwhile, as well. Cutting down on the amount of pollutants we release (by smoking outdoors, using chemical-free cleaning agents and taking off shoes upon entry) is also a great way to improve indoor air quality.

On a wider level, a more holistic approach to the issue would also be incredibly helpful. Every individual contribution that we can make is to be highly valued, but there is only so much that one person can do. Therefore it’s vital that governments and industry leaders introduce new policies and standards to deal with indoor air quality – in the same way that legislation like the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) targets outdoor pollution – as soon as possible.

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