An Indoor Air Pollution Revolution

Indoor air pollution is an invisible problem that most of us do not consider.  Given we spend 90% of our time indoors, we should be more interested in what is in the air we breathe. The actions we can take to improve it seem obvious as we become more air-conscious.

This week we were thrilled to see that the topic is getting more traction, with this “must read” Newsweek article, “Your Office Air is Killing You” by Douglas Main.

Here we have pulled out a few of the most poignant quotes from the article, but recommend that all of our readers read the article in full:

  • “Poisonous indoor air is almost completely ignored by the press, the public and those who bankroll scientific research—it gets about 100 times less research funding than outdoor air, even though the average American spends about 90 percent of the time inside.”
  • “Your life depends on good air. Every year, air pollution causes the premature deaths of between5.5 million and 7 million people, making it more deadly than HIV, traffic accidents and diabetes combined. The majority of these deaths—about 4 million—are caused by indoor air pollution, primarily in developing countries. But it takes a toll in developed countries as well. In Europe, for example, air pollution shortens the average life expectancy by nearly one year.”
  • “Particulate matter is the prime villain. The most lethal are the smallest particles (also known as PM2.5, for particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, about one-third the diameter of a red blood cell), which are produced by combustion and household activities like cooking. These specks can get deep into the lungs, tarring the airways and weathering the heart, disrupting its ability to beat properly: Many studies have linked exposure to PM2.5 with heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, worsened symptoms of asthma and an increased risk of respiratory illness. Worldwide, particulate matter contributes to about 800,000 premature deaths each year, according to the WHO, making it the 13th leading cause of death worldwide.”
  • “Architects are now specifically designing buildings with air in mind following a period of problematic construction and improper design.”

Given recent independent studies, published by Google (with help from Aclima) and Harvard that document the correlation between productivity and indoor air pollution, we are just beginning to understand the serious impact of poor air.

The article points out that while there are “a new generation of devices that measure air quality, many of which are priced at $200 or less and can quantify levels of particulate matter, VOCs, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases,” but highlights a major problem in the nascent field, “many of the sensors are not very accurate, and every researcher Newsweek spoke with was careful to point out the limitations of inexpensive monitors.”

The process is not yet perfected, but we are happy that the conversation ensues. Let’s start taking control of the air that we breathe. Let’s make indoor air quality a priority and address the comfort problem while we’re at it!

Image: Newsweek


by Lauryn Soden

Jun 13 2016