The World Health Organisation has identified air pollution as the biggest environmental threat we face today. Every day, air pollution results in 36,000 deaths per year in the UK alone. These deaths would be preventable if we did more to care for the air we breathe. Clean Air Day, which is tomorrow, was conceived to raise awareness of this issue.
The theme of this year’s campaign is “air pollution dirties every organ in your body”. This was chosen to highlight how poor air quality affects organs beyond your lungs. When we breathe polluted air, it inflames the lining of the lungs. This allows harmful particles to enter the bloodstream and affect every organ.
Poor air quality can shorten lives and make us more susceptible to heart disease, lung disease, dementia and strokes. However, when most people think of air pollution, they think of outdoor air pollution, like smog and car emissions. In fact, some of the most harmful air is inside our homes and workplaces.
Where does indoor air pollution come from?
A study in the United States estimated that the average person spends about 90% of their time indoors. This is compared to an average of 40 hours a week of exposure to industrial pollutants. Therefore, the air we breathe indoors makes up the vast majority of our intake.
The main problem is, that in cold climates like the UK, doors and windows are often tightly closed. This allows pollutants to build up. These particles can cause respiratory disease and even certain types of cancer. But where are these particles coming from?
Many of them are biological pollutants like mildew, mould and pollen. Some of these particles can trigger allergies or cause serious illness. Black mould, for example, can cause headaches and fatigue. Equally, poor air quality allows viruses and bacteria to spread more easily. As we know all too well, the spread of COVID-19 has been linked to enclosed spaces.
However, poor indoor air quality can come from some sources that you may not expect. Varnishes and paints can emit dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) long after they’re dry. Seemingly innocuous products like air fresheners and deodorisers also use volatile and semi-volatile ingredients that are largely unregulated. Copiers, laser printers and glues also give off VOCs that can penetrate lung tissue.
How can you reduce indoor air pollution?
One simple measure you can take to reduce indoor air pollution is to open a window. Often, even in the busiest areas, allowing some outdoor air to circulate will improve air quality not make it worse. However, in the dead of winter, this isn’t an attractive option. Air quality is important, but so is comfort.
A fail-safe strategy to improve indoor air quality is to install an air purifier. Air purifiers use filtration to remove harmful particles like mould, mildew, dust, and VOCs from the air. The most advanced models will also include a UVC light filter to virtually eliminate all pathogens. We recommend this system by Rejuvenair, which combines HEPA-13 filters with UVC to eliminate 99.9% of all pathogens.
Clean air is vital to the health of every organ in the body. This Clean Air Day, make a resolution to improve the quality of the air you breathe 90% of the time.