Our bodies can last for a few days without water or food, but we can’t live without air for more than three minutes. Our bodies rely heavily on air. So, it’s only apt to breathe in clean and fresh air.

From several sociological studies conducted in America, we learned that the amount of time an average person spends inside has remained the same for a few decades. A huge chunk of an employed person spends their time indoors. With only 2% of their time spent outside while 6% of it is spent in transit.

Because we spend more time indoors, the focus is now on the air quality inside the home or the workplace. But interestingly enough, the amount of pollutants in the air indoors is two to five times higher than they are outside.

What’s in the Air You Breathe?

A large part that makes up air pollution is particulate matter. These particulate matters that comprises air pollution are gasses, droplets, and ground-level ozone. Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution are not visible to the naked eye. They are a mixture of solid and liquid particles floating in the air. These particles are:

  • Dust
  • Smog
  • Metals
  • Pollen
  • Liquid droplets
  • Chemicals
  • Smoke
  • Acids
  • Soil

The size of the particles makes it easy for humans to inhale it. Once these particles enter your nose, it will pass through your throat and then enter your lungs. The particles may cause respiratory problems, worsen asthma, or even worse, break down to pass through your lungs and then travel through your blood and damage vital organs.

A lot of people don’t pay attention to the amount of air pollution they breathe in every day indoors. Little did they know; these minuscule particles could be the cause of their health problems.

Sources of Pollution at Home and Work

Indoor pollution could be from inconspicuous objects such as furniture, cabinetry and pollution stuck inside the ventilation system. Warmer temperatures combined with increased humidity can converge the pollutants inside.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are in the material used to build your home or your office. VOCs release harmful gasses that might affect your health both short- and long-term.

A few things that release VOCs you can find at home or at work are:

  • Paints, paint strippers and solvents
  • Cleaners and disinfectants
  • Dry-cleaned clothing
  • Copier and printer fluids
  • Wood glue
  • Pressed wood products made with MDF board
  • Wood preservatives
  • Moth repellents and air fresheners
  • Pesticides
  • Correction fluid
  • Permanent markers
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Stored fuels and car products
  • Building Materials
  • Hobby supplies
  • Graphic and craft materials
  • Cabinetry

Another surprising source of indoor air pollution is fish. Yes, fish. Korea’s Ministry of Environment stated that frying fish in your kitchen without proper ventilation was the worst source of indoor air pollution. So, next time you plan on having grilled mackerel for dinner, better remember to open the window or the exhaust fan.

Observing and Tracking Indoor Air Pollution

The popularity of energy efficient homes in the 80’s also popularized the “sick building syndrome,” a term describing a group of people suffering from a range of illness from living and working in a poorly ventilated building. To ensure this doesn’t happen, architects and builders spend more time planning to ensure proper ventilation in buildings.

To monitor the carbon monoxide levels in buildings, some companies install sensors in their ventilation systems. When the sensor detects high levels of carbon monoxide, the ventilation systems is put to work. A few other companies also use sensors that monitor elevated levels of VOCs in the air.

These sensors are not exclusive to workplaces. You can monitor the carbon monoxide and VOCs level in your home as well. Radon detectors are readily available to be installed in your basement to monitor and tell you when high levels of cancer-causing are leaking into your basement.

Carbon monoxide monitors are affordable and will warn you right away when it detects high levels of carbon monoxide in your home. Thanks to new technology, sensors that detect fine particles can be installed in your home too. It monitors the air regularly and sends a report to your mobile phone.

Another surprising source of indoor air pollution is fish. Yes, fish. Korea’s Ministry of Environment stated that frying fish in your kitchen without proper ventilation was the worst source of indoor air pollution. So, next time you plan on having grilled mackerel for dinner, better remember to open the window or the exhaust fan.

Effects of Air Pollution to Your Health

Some effects of air pollution may be felt right away while others manifest only a few years later. The severity of each case depends on several factors such as your age and pre-existing medical conditions.

People who are most susceptible to the effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution include those who have or are:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Emphysema
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Children younger than 14
  • Pregnant women
  • Asthma
  • Athletes who vigorously exercise

After a single exposure, you may experience:

  • Worsening asthma
  • Dizziness
  • A runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Scratchy throat
These reactions share similar symptoms to a cold or an allergic reaction. But once the air quality is improved or you have left that room, the symptoms goes away quickly. But on the other hand, long-term or chronic health conditions brought on by pollutants do not go away on their own. These conditions include:
  • Accelerated ageing of your lungs
  • Asthma
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Hospitalization for diabetes
  • Loss of lung capacity
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortened life span
  • Heart attack
  • Decreased cognitive function or ability to make better decisions and be more productive
  • Decreased lung function
  • Emphysema
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Depression
An intensive research that focuses on the issues brought on by long exposure to particulate matter showed the long-term effects of exposure to poor indoor air quality. The study discovered that people who are constantly exposed to poor air quality are more likely to spend more time in the hospital, have high blood pressure and a decrease in cognitive skills.

Can you change things?

If you think that it’s too late to improve the air quality both at home and at work then you’re wrong. No matter how old the building is, you can still make some changes to improve the quality of the air you breathe. According to research done by scientists from the University of Illinois, improvements in the air quality lead to less respiratory problems, fewer instances of headaches and less psychological stress.

Here are some of the ways you can improve the quality of the air at home or at your workplace. Most of these solutions are economical and could help lessen your healthcare bill in the future. You could also converse with your boss about the benefits of these changes such as reduced insurance costs and a possible increase in productivity.

Observe the air quality

Although there is no safe level of particulate matter and air pollution, observing the levels in your workplace and home may help you identify the culprit and could also help you compare the improvement in indoor air quality once you make a few changes.

Filter your air

An air filter that can be bought out in the market may change measurements of health, lower the amount of C-reactive protein and other inflammation. But remember, not all filters on the market work with the same level of efficiency and it can certainly not remove all pollutants in the air.

Filter your water

You might say, “Filter my water? But we already have filters on our drinking water.” But what about the water in your shower? Did you know that a 10-minute shower can make you absorb 100 times more chlorine than drinking a gallon of water? This is because chlorine becomes airborne during a shower. The high humidity levels in the bathroom further amplify this thus increasing the amount of chlorine you inhale.

Add in more greenery

Aside from adding life to the room, houseplants are functional too. They liven up the space and purifies the air. According to research, seeing greenery indoors improves your emotional and mental health too. Some good houseplants to get for your home or workplace are bamboo palm, spider plant, philodendron, English ivy and peace lily.

Switch to more environment-friendly cleaning products

Over-the-counter and grocery store cleaning products are popular with homeowners because they are usually affordable and easy to use. But these products contain chemicals that cause poor indoor air quality. Products that contain VOCs such as air fresheners and scented candles are the root source of the problem. Try switching to soap and water, or vinegar and baking soda as alternatives. They’re cheaper and definitely better for you.

Open the windows

Want to reduce the pollutants in your home for free? Just open your windows! By opening the windows for even 15 minutes a day, the quality of the air you breathe will improve drastically.

Maintain your appliances

Appliances such as space heater, shower heater, natural gas heater or stove and other fuel-burning appliances, if left unmaintained may leak high levels of carbon dioxide or nitrogen dioxide. Have your appliances regularly checked and maintained to reduce potential indoor air pollution.