When it comes to air quality, outdoor pollution tends to get all the press – everyone has seen pictures of the smog-filled streets of Beijing, and at some point we’ve all felt the warm cloud of vehicle exhaust float across their face as a truck drives by.
But the air inside our homes is often even worse – and a much bigger risk to our health.
The threats are invisible: thousands of allergens, gasses and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). We can’t see them, but they occupy our homes all the same (and they ain’t paying rent, either).
Almost 96% of homes in North America were reported to have at least one indoor air quality problem.
But fear not: knowing your enemy is the first step to fighting it.
Here are five surprising and alarming facts that you should know about indoor air quality.
- Indoor air rated one of top 5 environmental health risks by the EPA
Indoor air can be two-to-five times more harmful than outdoor air, according to a 1985 study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In fact, it deemed indoor air to be among the top 5 environmental health risks, far worse than outdoor air. Almost 96% of homes in North America were reported to have at least one indoor air quality problem. The report continued to state that schools had the worst air quality.
- Smoking in the house has consequences: secondhand smoke contains 4000 chemicals
Secondhand smoke is one of the most common and dangerous sources of indoor air pollution. It’s also the most preventable: starting today, smoke exclusively outdoors!
Not convinced? The American Lung Association reports that secondhand tobacco smoke contains around 4000 chemicals, of which 200 are poisonous; these include carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and 43 known carcinogens.
- Most school and work absences can be attributed to poor indoor air quality
Poor indoor air consists of molds, pollen, viruses, animal dander, dust mites and other biological pollutants – all of which are usually the cause of several severe to minor health problems that force students and professionals to take a day off from school and work.
It doesn’t help that schools and offices are consistently rated as having poor air quality
- Indoor radon exposure estimated to be the second-greatest cause of lung cancer
Radon is a natural gas that seeps into homes through crack in the walls, foundation and drains. According to an EPA survey, one in every 15 homes in the United States has radon levels that exceed EPA’s allowed radon levels of 4pci/L.
- Work-at-home women are at greater risk of cancer
An EPA study showed that women who work at home have a 54% higher probability of being diagnosed with cancer as compared to women who work outside. The culprit? Yep – indoor air quality.
Short of buying an air purifier, what can you do right now to improve the air quality in your home? I’m glad you asked.
Many household items such as cleaning products, air fresheners, sanitary products and furniture – items that are seemingly harmless – are great contributors to indoor pollution because of the materials they’re made of and the chemicals they emit.
Keep cleaning products in a separate, sealed cupboard. Open windows and establish a strong air flow within your house.
Lastly, regular cleaning goes a long way; that means consistent sweeping and dusting, but it also means scrubbing down your furniture every once in a while.
Photo credit: drivethrucafe via Flickr CC License