It’s all around us – air. Comprised of nitrogen and oxygen and other trace gases, our atmosphere keeps us going, circulates weather, and transmits sounds and smells. But bad air, and therefore bad indoor air quality, is an increasingly dark part of the world we live in. One figure suggests that over 10,000 deaths worldwide occur every 24 hours because of poor indoor air quality and other negative factors in our environments. Unlike natural disasters, poor indoor air quality and pollution don’t come in with a bang – it affects you slowly, over years. As it can often be invisible, it can be ignored by policy makers and the media. The World Health Organization reported recently that respiratory infections linked to poor indoor air quality take the lives of 57,000 children under the age of 5 – that alarming figure amounts to 10% of all deaths recorded for that age group. Indoor air quality can be affected by many things. Cleaning products, paint, or new furniture can all contain Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, that float around your indoor air quality and are easily breathed in. Mould growing in damp spaces or in a recently flooded basement can release spores that affect your indoor air quality and cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue. The WHO reports that one million more people die per year from poor indoor air quality than outdoor pollution, making your indoor air quality a top concern.
The global spread of pollution affects even the most remote and beautiful places – scientists have found traces of lead trapped in Antarctic ice that they suspect came from industrial activity in the 1800s. Today, pollution crosses international boundaries and can affect your indoor air quality from across the lake, down the road, or even next door.
It’s not just the megacities of Mumbai or Hong Kong where outdoor pollution levels can have a big effect on your indoor air quality as well. In America, the Environmental Protection Agency has established a list of 6 airborne substances which are known pollutants that affect indoor air quality. The 6 are: ground level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, lead, and nitrogen dioxide. All are proven health and indoor air quality hazards. Some of these pollutants we are more aware of then others – after unleaded fuel was introduced in the ‘70s, for example, airborne lead has dropped dramatically.
Having good indoor air quality incorporates regular cleaning habits, but it also means maintaining other things in your home. Having a healthy level of humidity will help keep your indoor air quality top notch by keeping dust mites under control and preventing mold from growing. Making your home free from smoking is one of the most important aspects of good indoor air quality – secondhand smoke has its biggest impact on the health of children and the elderly. The over 4000 chemicals released as a cigarette burns are good for nobody, and the chemicals can linger on your furniture and continue to affect your indoor air quality long after you’ve butted out. If you have concerns about how your indoor air quality is affecting your health or home, having a licensed professional test and check your home for the buildup of chemicals, radon gas, or other factors that affect your indoor air quality. They will have a range of solutions for improving your indoor air quality so that the air you breathe is the best it can be.