When’s the last time you thought about indoor air quality? People spend an average of 90% of their time indoors and take between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths a day. In that context, it certainly makes indoor air quality sound much more important, right? It is. Today we’re sharing 5 facts everyone needs to know.
#1 Indoor air can be up to 1000 times more polluted than outdoor air.
On average, levels of some of the most common indoor air pollutants are 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors – no matter if you live on a remote, country hillside or in a dense, urban neighborhood. Levels can go up to 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels during, and for several hours after, activities like paint stripping.
Honest tip: Open your windows for a few minutes every day. Let that fresh air in! Better yet, install trickle vents in your windows that slowly exchange indoor and outdoor air 24/7 (without drafts or breezes).
#2 Indoor air pollution usually isn’t obvious.
You can certainly recognize indoor air pollution when it’s fumes from paint strippers, but generally it flies under our olfactory radar. You might perceive some indoor air pollutants by their immediate health impacts like watery eyes or throat irritation. Others, which you may not register at all, are not necessarily benign. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some health impacts like respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can show up years after exposure.
#3 The air in 1 in 15 homes may be contaminated with elevated levels of an odorless natural gas that’s the second-greatest cause of lung cancer.
You probably have carbon dioxide detectors dotted throughout your home (if you don’t, you should!), but do you have a radon detector? Radon is a natural, colorless, odorless radioactive gas released when the uranium in soil, rock and water breaks down. It can seep into homes through cracks in the walls, the foundation, floor drains and sumps. According to the EPA , one in every 15 homes in the US has radon levels that exceed EPA’s allowed radon levels of 4pci/L.
Any home could potentially have a radon problem. Old and new, those with and without basements, drafty and well-sealed – anywhere in the country.
Honest tip: Visit your local home improvement store and get a radon detector.
#4 The kitchen is a hot spot of indoor air pollution.
Appliances used for cooking and the process of cooking itself can produce toxic pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The Clean Air Act regulates acceptable levels of these pollutants in outdoor air, but inside homes, there’s no set standard for safety. This shouldn’t compel you to quit cooking, but hopefully you’ll remember to use proper ventilation from here on out.
Honest tip: Use proper ventilation techniques while cooking such as opening windows and turning on range hoods and vents.
#5 The population-wide years of healthy life lost due to indoor air pollution may be about the same as those lost due to car accidents.
In a study conducted in 2012 and published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Dr. Jennifer Logue and her colleagues estimated the long-term health effects expected from the hundreds of chemicals found in the air in average homes. Using a common metric known as “disability-adjusted life-year” (which can be thought of as a year of “healthy life”), they found that the population-wide health impact of indoor air pollutants is similar to the population-wide health impact of car accidents. It was also greater than that of more prominent concerns like secondhand smoke or radon.
Honest tip: The easiest way to prevent indoor air pollution is through source control – which means not bringing pollutants in in the first place. The second step is to increase ventilation. If you’re still concerned after addressing these two issues, you can look into purchasing some type of air cleaner.
Want to know more about cleaning up your indoor air? Visit the U.S. EPA’s Indoor Air Quality website for more helpful information.