5 Reasons Why Indoor Air Quality Matters Today
Air is crucial for our health. Recent changes in lifestyle and work habits have significantly impacted the quality of the air we breathe. Construction techniques, ventilation equipment, and cleaning products have drastically altered the indoor air quality.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people spend 90% of their time indoors, and often indoor air is at least two times more polluted than outdoor air.
The indoor air quality in our homes is likely one of the most critical aspects of our quality of life. According to the WHO, indoor air pollution in households causes 3.8 million premature deaths annually. Any concentration of fine particulate matter indoors has harmful effects on the human body.
Short-term effects of exposure to fine particulate matter include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions. More severe consequences such as heart diseases, asthma, and cancer are also possible.
Recent changes in lifestyle and work habits have been significant. Construction techniques, ventilation equipment, and cleaning products have undergone drastic changes.
Why is indoor air quality so relevant today?
1. Global population staying indoors
The shift from an agriculture and production-based society to an information technology and service-dominated society means that we spend much more time indoors. In general, we have moved from the farm to the office or home office.
In this indoor environment, we are exposed to pollutants present in the atmospheric air (every time we open a door or window), but also to many more pollutants specific to the indoor environment. These include allergens such as dust, pet dander, and mold, as well as particles emitted from wood-burning, cooking, candles, and chemicals released from flooring, furniture, paints, and appliances.
2. Era of pandemics
There is no doubt that Covid-19 drew our attention to indoor air quality, but according to experts, Covid-19 is not the only pandemic we will witness. Airborne transmission has prompted us to rethink how we perceive indoor air. Diseases that spread efficiently through airborne droplets (such as tuberculosis, measles, chickenpox) are highly contagious, as they can quickly reach and infect many people in a short period.
3. Our homes have become more isolated
Efforts to make homes airtight to improve energy efficiency have led to the creation of buildings with reduced ventilation, leading to the accumulation of pollutants indoors to harmful levels. There is no doubt that awareness of energy costs has affected indoor air quality.
The workplace has also changed, with computers, printers, faxes, and copiers being potential sources of harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The presence of computers and printers at home—now that our homes are increasingly turning into our offices—adds another source of potential harmful VOC emissions.
4. Increasing prevalence of asthma
According to Eurostat statistics, up to 20% of Europeans suffer from asthma due to substances inhaled indoors, and the number is increasing. According to a 2019 study, up to 66,000 new cases of childhood asthma in the EU could be prevented each year if European countries adhere to WHO guidelines on air quality regarding particulate matter (PM2.5).
Pollen is fine powder produced as part of the reproductive cycle of many plant species. Three major peaks in pollen production are observed throughout the year. Some types of pollen, those with a small diameter, can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause irritation even in people without allergies. High concentrations of pollen in the air can spread for kilometers, even indoors.
The change in carbon dioxide concentrations from 280 ppm in the pre-industrial era to today's concentrations of over 400 ppm has led to a doubling of pollen production.
Considering the amount of time you spend in your home, there is no reason not to invest in ensuring good indoor air quality.