Why Indoor Air Quality Is Important
Poor air quality affects people’s health in a variety of ways. It’s linked to symptoms like headaches, fatigue and trouble concentrating. The EPA estimates that people spend nearly 90% of their time indoors where pollutant levels can be two to five times greater than outdoor air.
Indoor air pollution is caused by many different sources – from the smoke from burning wood and coal, to the pollutants from mold and pests in your home. These pollutants irritate your airways and can make asthma symptoms worse. The quality of the air you breathe indoors is just as important to your health as the air outside. It affects your breathing, the way you feel, and the diseases you develop. It’s also linked to cancer, heart disease, and other problems. People with asthma are more likely to be exposed to air pollution. When the air quality is poor, it can trigger asthma attacks and emergency room visits. If you have asthma, try to keep your outdoor areas clean and avoid spending too much time in the outdoors when the air is bad. This will help to reduce your exposure to ozone and particulate matter, two common triggers for asthma.
Indoor air quality plays an important role in how infections spread. A study by the Hospital Microbiome Project at the University of Chicago found that maintaining proper relative humidity levels is the best way to manage infectious disease spread inside medical facilities. In addition to preventing infections, the right amount of ventilation also helps keep air smelling fresh and clean. Moisture condensation on windows and walls, smelly or stuffy air, and dirty central heating and air conditioning equipment are all signs of poor ventilation.
Combustion pollutants, such as gas, oil, kerosene, and wood smoke, release gases and particles into the air. These substances, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and radon, interfere with oxygen delivery to the body and can cause a variety of ailments. Smoke also contains more than 7,000 chemicals that are known carcinogens and can cause chronic lung diseases. Secondhand smoke from tobacco is another major source of indoor pollution and has been linked to 7,300 lung cancer deaths in nonsmokers each year.
Other Health Problems
Indoor air pollution can cause problems with breathing and can contribute to other health issues. As we mentioned previously, it can aggravate or worsen symptoms of asthma and increase the risk of lung cancer. Symptoms can be immediate or chronic. They include headache, fatigue, trouble concentrating and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Poor indoor air quality also increases the risk of infections and other diseases. This is particularly true for people who already have a respiratory condition, as their lungs are more sensitive to the effects of indoor air pollution. Similarly, children are more at risk for the negative effects of indoor air pollution as their lungs are still developing and it is easier for them to absorb toxins than adults.