Around the world, people are practicing distancing and/or are living in cities with lockdown orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a result of decreased travel and economic activity, some cities are reporting that outdoor air quality has improved.
As people spend more time inside, it is important to consider the quality of the air being breathed indoors. While spending most of the day inside may present some challenges to indoor air quality, such as increases in pollution from cooking and heating, it also presents opportunities to reduce exposures and improve the quality of the air we are breathing indoors.
We’ll take a look at:
- How indoor air pollution impacts health.
- The sources of indoor air pollution.
- How individuals can reduce their exposure to indoor air pollution.
It is important to note that none of the recommendations made here are intended to replace local, regional, or national health guidance, especially in the evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indoor Air Pollution’s Impact on Your Health
There is emerging evidence that lung health may relate to COVID-19 sickness and death. People with poor lung health (whether from smoking, vaping, or exposure to environmental air pollution) may be at greater risk for complications. Researchers found that, during the SARS outbreak in 2003, people who lived in more polluted places (with higher PM2.5 levels) had worse health outcomes from the virus.
Because indoor and outdoor air pollution share many of the same health-harming components, such as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), the health impacts are similar to the impacts attributed to outdoor air pollution. Both contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and long term exposure is associated with some cancers.
What Are Some Sources of Indoor Air Pollution During LockDown
Simply put, burning things in the home causes indoor air pollution. This includes having a fire in the fireplace, lighting candles, burning incense, and even cooking with fossil gas, propane, or LPG. Some specific cooking activities (or mishaps), such as burning toast and cooking foods on very hot pans, can create fine particulate pollution as well.
Sources of chemical pollutants include tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building (e.g. volatile organic compounds from office equipment; furniture, wall and floor coverings; and some cleaning and consumer products) accidental spill of chemicals, and gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are products of combustion.
Particles are solid or liquid substances which are light enough to be suspended in the air, the largest of which may be visible in sunbeams streaming into a room. However, smaller particles that you cannot see are likely to be more harmful to health. Particles of dust, dirt, or other substances may be drawn into the building from outside; and can also be produced by activities that occur in buildings, like sanding wood or drywall, printing, copying, operating equipment and smoking.