The Importance of Indoor Air Quality and How It Affects Health

Introduction

We all know that outdoor pollution has detrimental effects on the environment as well as our health. Outdoor pollution can cause a number of respiratory issues, from minor coughs to respiratory infections, asthma, and can even cause a decrease in proper respiratory function. Fortunately, many steps have been taken to reduce pollution outdoors, but what about indoors?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is concerned with the quality of air inside of a building and the quality of air around the building. The quality of the air that we breathe indoors is just as important as the air outdoors— maybe even more. We tend to spend more time indoors than we do outdoors, so it’s important that the air we breathe inside is free of pollutants.

Common Indoor Pollutants

It may seem impossible, but indoor pollutants are all around us. There are many things that affect the quality of air indoors, and there are some pollutants that you may not have even realized were lurking throughout your home.

Some of the most common pollutants in homes include:

  • Formaldehyde (found in resins on wood products)
  • Carbon monoxide (from kerosene lamps and gas heaters)
  • Particulate matter (smoke, dust, and dirt)
  • Gas Stovetops
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Radon

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are another form of indoor pollutants that most people don’t think about. These are the particles released from common household products, including cleaning products, aerosol sprays, paint, and pesticides. Excess moisture in the home and poor ventilation can contribute to and further aggravate indoor air pollutants.

Immediate Effects of Indoor Pollutants

If you have allergies or know someone with allergies, then you know how irritating outdoor substances, such as pollen, and indoor substances, such as dust, can be. These common irritants can cause sneezing and coughing, and irritation of the throat, nose, and eyes. Other indoor pollutants can cause the same effects. Effects, such as headaches and dizziness can also occur in conjunction with the above-mentioned effects. Luckily, these negative effects are not long-lived and can disappear when the irritants are removed.

Chronic Effects of Indoor Pollutants

Unfortunately, many indoor irritants can go undetected and lead to chronic health issues. One of the most common issues associated with indoor air pollution is respiratory issues. Chronic conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), emphysema, and lung cancer are all forms of chronic respiratory illnesses.

It is well-documented that the indoor irritant asbestos is linked to developing mesothelioma if people are exposed to it for a long period of time. This isn’t the only indoor irritant that has been linked to cancer; second-hand smoke from tobacco products is also known to increase the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

How to Reduce Indoor Pollutants

There are several ways to improve indoor air quality, and they are all very simple solutions. One of the most popular ways to reduce indoor pollutants is to incorporate live plants indoors. This can be in the form of a few plants here and there, or you can have a complete indoor garden.

The peace lily plant is the perfect, low-maintenance plant to help remove toxins from the air. They are known to cleanse the air of formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, xylene, and other toxic chemicals. Keep them out of direct sunlight and water them once a week, and they’ll thrive.

Conclusion

It’s important to think about the quality of air inside homes and other buildings, just like we consider outdoor air pollution. Though they have greatly decreased, irritants outside are still present, but their harmful effects are lessened due to the fact that the outdoors are well ventilated and there are plenty of trees and other plants around to filter the air.

This same idea of ventilation and plants can help improve indoor air quality. This, in combination with other efforts to improve air quality, can have a positive impact on everyone’s health. Indoor air pollution should be taken just as seriously as outdoor air pollution.

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