Air pollution levels: Can indoor air be worse than outdoor air pollution?
Pollution levels indoor can be worrisome as well
Rising air pollution levels have become an issue of serious concern. Pollutants in the air have left people suffocated, gasping for quality air and causing vital damage to our health, in the long-run.
Now, while we are in the know about just how ghastly the polluted air could be if we venture outside, and there are several measures listed to combat outside air pollution, the air inside our homes and indoor areas could be just as precarious. Considering the long lengths of time we spend indoors, it’s not just the air outside that’s worrisome, but indoor air pollution could be just as terrible and risky. Statistics from recent years have showcased that the depleting air quality, and pollutants present indoors were responsible for a significant percentage of pollution ailments, and led to a decline in quality of life. But does that mean it could be actually worse than outside air? If yes, what pollutants can you find inside? We explain:
How can air pollutants impact indoor air quality?
Any pollutant or particulate matter present in the air can deplete the quality of the air you breathe. While outside air pollution levels invite a lot of concern and precautionary measures usually, indoor air quality can be just as worrisome. In fact, with the constant modernization and changes in living standards, indoor air quality has become a pressing matter. Since household pollution can also be acutely spread, it also means that more people expose themselves to poor air standards. If WHO estimates are to go by, nearly 8 million lives are impacted by poor indoor air quality levels, and over half the number of pollution-related deaths are actually fueled by indoor pollution.
What are the major contributors for poor indoor air quality?
Unlike outdoor air pollution levels, indoor air pollution can be driven by multiple factors, including the indoor activities, ventilation and fuel sources used. As per experts, one of the leading causes of indoor air pollution in rural areas continues to be hazardous quality of wood and fuel sources used- directly cooking food on charcoal, waste wood on an open fuel can release pollutants in the air, which can circulate in the indoor air. While this may be a factor limited to some places, degrading air quality levels can also be expected in modern homes. In ways, each and every household item we own or use can contribute to problems- from paints used on furnitures, cleaning products, fuels used, building materials used in construction, lighting candles, smoking indoors to even the gas stoves, a lot of seemingly practical things in use can be silent emitters of harmful gases and toxic chemicals like NOx, SO2, O3, PM and semi-volatile organic compounds (VOCs), all injurious to good health.
Can pollution levels be worse indoors than outdoors?
While the air quality level is often categorized to be ‘severe’ outside and poses serious risks for those with respiratory issues and comorbidities, sometimes, indoor air pollutants can be 2-5 times higher than outside levels. What also makes it concerning, according to experts, is that the suspension levels of such pollutants can be in much higher concentration than those outside, simply because of ventilation levels and space design inside. Indoor activities, and the levels of ventilation can gravely impact the quality of air you breathe indoors, and make it much harder to breathe since the air gets ‘trapped’ in the environment. Remember, while this may not be the case every time, and air pollution levels are truly worse outside, indoor air pollution levels do demand serious attention and be consequential for one’s health.
Indoor air quality can also become concerning in places where outside air quality is relatively better and less risky, and there are questionable pollutants present inside the home. To simplify, even a simple decline in air quality could be recorded by a simple chore like cooking, and the presence of multiple emission sources in an indoor space can lead to poor air quality levels, cumulatively.
How can it impact health ?
Poor air quality can not just make it difficult for one to breath or induce coughing, but the consequences can be far more reaching. While it’s almost impossible to sniff out poor air quality inside one’s home, it is actually said that indoor air pollutants and depleting air is linked to serious health concerns, including a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) , lung cancer, increased asthma symptoms, premature aggravation of symptoms amongst lung and heart disease sufferers. Further, coupled with outdoor air pollution, the symptoms can worsen and cause short-term as well as long-term health issues.
How to make air inside your home safer
One of the best ways to curb one’s exposure to unsafe air is to limit contact or getting out, especially if you are at risk. However, since we spend so much time indoors and it’s practically impossible to avoid doing chores or engaging in tasks inside a place, the best way to clean the air and make it more breathable is to purify and filter the air that circulates. Clean out the vents, install windows so as to allow sunlight to come in. Further, installation of air quality purifiers can also help filter out toxic compounds and chemicals from the air, and should be compulsorily installed if you have compromising issues or lung disease. Air purifying plants can also be made use of. More so, it’s also requisite that one make mindful choices and use sustainable sources whether you cook or use any cleaning products to mitigate risks.