The quality of the air we breathe is a significant influencer of health. This fundamental human requirement sustains us, but it can create an unhealthy environment for the lungs and other body systems when polluted.

Most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, whether at home, work, or driving in a car. (1) The air quality indoors can be anywhere from 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outdoors. (1) If we don’t take proactive measures to improve indoor air quality, we create a situation where the act of breathing is contributing to poor health.

Health Effects of Poor Air Quality

Health Effects of Poor Air Quality

Air pollutants come from many sources. The most common indoor pollutants include radon, pet dander, mold, lead, asbestos, and ozone. (1) In addition, many standard cleaning products and building materials have the potential to release chemicals or other pollutants into the air around us. Without adequate airflow, the concentration of these pollutants can be high enough to affect health.

Allergies, headaches, nose and throat irritation, and the triggering of asthma attacks are a few known health effects related to indoor air pollution. Long-term consequences such as respiratory disease, heart disease, and cancer are also possible. (1)

As air pollution has increased, researchers have begun to look at impacts on brain function when exposed to polluted air, specifically in schools and workplaces. (2) The link between decreased performance at school and exposure to poor air quality is leading many schools to take steps to better manage indoor pollutants.

Ways to Improve Indoor Air

Without intervention, the air indoors will become polluted. Use these steps to keep the air around you healthy.

  • First, clean your home regularly. This will decrease the accumulation of pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens and prevent mold buildup. When cleaning, use natural and biodegradable products to avoid introducing chemicals into the air.
  • Let outside air in. As much as possible, open windows and allow for robust airflow to remove stale and polluted air. It is recommended that the windows be opened regularly to refresh the indoor air, even in winter. (3)
  • Get a quality air purifier. These products vary widely on how effective they are at filtering pollutants, so do your research and purchase the best you can afford. Ionic-based purifiers are considered a good choice. (3)
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas such as basements, and ensure good ventilation of bathrooms to prevent mold.
  • Finally, test for serious pollutants such as radon and asbestos. If present, take approved measures to eliminate them safely.

Breathing Free

Clean air is a necessity. Thus, breathing air free of pollutants is just as essential to health as eating nutritious food and getting plenty of movement. All things that enter our body contribute either to our well-being or our potential for future disease.

Simple steps can significantly improve the quality of the air indoors, and the more we can bring the outdoors in, or just as essentially, get ourselves outdoors, the better our health will be.