What are the risks of indoor air pollution?

Indoor air pollution can impact you more than you think and in many different ways. While we recently looked at the impact that poor indoor air quality can have on your health, new research has indicated that it could have more of an effect.  

Indoor air pollution and COVID-19

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down since early 2020, with the virus still spreading and new variants emerging. While lockdown restrictions are currently not in place within the UK, research suggests that poor indoor air quality could lead to a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus and also being hospitalised as a result of it. 

A study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that higher levels of carbon dioxide increase the COVID-19 infection risk. This means that reducing CO2 could effectively cut the infection risk, especially in indoor areas that are open to the public or in offices. 

According to the researchers, when CO2 levels in a gym dropped from 2,800 ppm (parts per million) to 1,000 ppm, the risk of COVID-19 transmission falls to just a quarter of the original risk. The study also found that in a library, if CO2 levels go up from 800 to 1,600 ppm, the rate of infection triples. 

In addition to this research, another study found that long term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution (particles that have a  diameter less than 2.5 micrometres, which is 100 times thinner than a human hair) increases the risk of intensive care treatment as a result of COVID-19

The study conducted by the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases found looked at data from 2,038 adults with COVID-19 who were admitted to four large hospitals in the US. It also analysed local air pollution levels recorded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

The research found that every small increase in long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution was associated with more than three times the odds of being mechanically ventilated as a result of Coronavirus and twice the likelihood of being admitted to the ICU. PM2.5 air pollution can be present both inside and outside, meaning that indoor air pollution can increase the risk of serious illness as a result of COVID-19.

Indoor air quality and dementia

Several studies were recently shared at the Alzheimer’s Association international conference that suggest that improved indoor air quality can help improve cognitive function and reduce dementia risk. 

One of these was performed by researchers at the University of California. The study found that reducing PM2.5 pollution and traffic-related pollutants by 10% of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s current standard over a 10-year period helped to reduce the risk of dementia in older women by between 14% and 26%. This was the case no matter their age, level of education, location and whether they had heart disease.

Another study presented at the conference found that reducing PM2.5 pollution over 10 years was associated with a 15% reduction in risk of all-cause dementia among French individuals for each microgram of pollution per cubic meter of air decrease. This decrease also reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 17%.

These studies suggest that improving air quality by reducing indoor air pollution could help to maintain cognitive function as people get older, helping to actively reduce dementia progression. 

Indoor air pollution and education

As well as health impacts, indoor air pollution has been linked to lower academic performance, which could affect people’s lives in different ways. 

According to research conducted by the University of Utah, exposure to air pollution is linked to lower English and Maths test results for primary school-aged children. The researchers looked a the test results of pupils at primary schools in Salt Lake City in 2017 and compared these to air pollution exposure in each of the schools. 

It was found that high air pollution levels were associated with lower test scores, which schools experiencing poorer air quality also having a higher percentage of pupils who tested below average in Maths and English. 

With many children being homeschooled during the pandemic, this means that poor air quality at home could also affect their learning and academic performance. 

How can you reduce indoor air pollution?

These studies, along with previous research, make it clear that indoor air pollution is just as big a problem for health and wellbeing as outdoor air quality. This means that taking steps to improve the air quality of your home and office could be hugely beneficial. So how do you do this?

Simple things like clearing clutter and regular cleaning can help you improve indoor air quality and ensure you are breathing cleaner air indoors. However, you might also want to consider ways that you can filter the air.
Air conditioning not only helps to keep your home cooler and more comfortable, but it also utilises air filters that help to remove dust, pathogens, bacteria and moisture. This leads to much cleaner air. Download our guide or contact us today to find out more.