A recent article from Nature.com highlights the importance of indoor air quality and highlights how we can improve indoor air quality - even though outdoor air gets the majority of the headlines. The article delves deep into indoor air pollution, and we recommend referring to it for further information. However, here is a summary of the most important points.
We spend as much as 90% of our time indoors, yet despite causing as many deaths as outdoor air pollution globally, there is very little awareness and improvements being made regarding indoor air pollution. This is largely due to the absence of legally enforceable indoor air quality standards.
So, what can policymakers do to protect us from indoor air pollution and ensure we stay safe? Well, the first step to take is to discover what’s harmful. Indoor air pollution includes various pollutants, from PM2.5 and PM10 to VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and mould. A set of metrics for indoor air quality needs to be devised to predict effects, limit exposures, and control emissions.
Secondly, it’s important to identify how indoor air pollutants form and accumulate. While we often think of the source as the primary way pollutants accumulate, there are other vital factors to consider, such as the concentration of outdoor pollutants, the amount of airflow, and the dimensions of the indoor space. These are not all easily measured, and this step could prove challenging.
Perhaps the biggest difference from outdoor air quality is how much indoor air quality can vary locally. While outdoor ambient pollution tends to remain consistent in an area, indoor air pollution can vary greatly from room to room. As such, the effects of local variations must also be researched and discussed.
Finally, policymakers need to understand the best ways to improve indoor air quality and back this with science-based advice. As with many things, improving indoor air quality requires constant research and collaboration to discover and share the best practices.
With how much awareness has risen surrounding outdoor air pollution over the past couple of decades, there is no reason we can’t build the same awareness around indoor air pollution, which is equally as harmful.