Esther Hur & Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE
Air pollution is one of the world’s greatest environmental problems of 2021. Research done by the World Health Organization showed that an estimated 4.2 to 7 million people die from air pollution worldwide annually and that 9 out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants.
Moreover, after the COVID-19 outbreak, preliminary studies identified a positive correlation between COVID-19-related mortality and air pollution. There is a plausible association of airborne particles assisting the viral spread.
How can bad air quality affect me?
Americans, on average, spend 90% of their lives indoors and according to the EPA, air pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher indoors than typical outdoor concentrations.
Bad indoor air quality can lead to:
Irritation of eyes, nose, and throat
Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue
Development or trigger of asthma
Respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer
Sick building syndrome: a situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute or ill health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building
Specifically, air particle pollution can lead to:
Increased infant mortality rates
Increased development and hospitalization for asthma in children
Increased hospitalization for cardiovascular diseases
Slowed lung function in children and teens
Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
Worsening of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in adults
Fine particle pollution can lead to : early death, cardiovascular harm, respiratory harm, cancer, reproductive harm, and nervous system damage
What are the sources of indoor air pollution?
Combustion sources: tobacco, wood, coal, cooking, and fireplaces can release harmful combustion by-products into the air such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter
Cleaning products and paint: insecticides, cleaning supplies, and paints can emit toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air
Building materials and pets: asbestos fibers can be released from building insulation, new pressed wood products can emit chemical off-gassing, and mold and pet dander can also pollute the air
Outdoor air pollutants: radon, chimney smoke, volatile chemicals from water supplies, and soil/dust particulates can enter through open airways into indoor areas
Which groups of people are most at risk of particle pollution?
Sensitive groups that are elderly people older than 64 years old or children under 18 years old are most at risk. Why? Children’s developing lungs are prone to damage and are more likely to have asthma compared to adults. Elderly people often face a gradual decline in physiological defenses which can put them more at risk
People with lung disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes
Current or former smokers
How can I reduce indoor air pollution?
The answer may be simpler than you thought. A large majority of indoor air quality problems derive from poor ventilation and therefore increased ventilation can usually mitigate most issues. Here are the top three most effective methods to reduce indoor air pollution:
Source control: get rid of sources of pollution such as cleaning dusty areas
Ventilation: exhaust pollutants through outdoor air ventilation such as opening windows and maintaining HVAC systems
Air cleaning: remove air pollutants through air purifiers such as a mechanical HEPA filter air purifier
What are the different types of air purifiers on the market?
There are several different air purifier types and filters available on the market. Some work better than others and some can actually be bad for your health. It is important to find a purifier that fits your needs and assess its effect on your health.
Why are HEPA air purifiers the most recommended?
HEPA is a mechanical filter system that stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air and it is a pleated filter that traps airborne particles as they pass through an air purifier. A true, standard HEPA filter removes 99.97% of all particles that are 0.3 microns in size or larger.
HEPA filtration systems are the most recommended because they are the most effective at getting rid of particulate matter, create no harmful by-products, can be combined with other filtration systems, and are great for all allergens. If you are looking for the removal of mold spores, pet dander, dust mites, pollen, and fine dust in your home, a HEPA air filter is the best choice.
EPA stated that multiple studies proved that HEPA air purifiers lead to improvements in one or more allergy and/or asthma symptoms.
Great ventilation, air purifiers, and good air quality can significantly aid your health and reduce many negative health effects of particle pollution
A HEPA air purifier is most recommended for home purposes to eliminate particulate matter and improve air quality
To remove odors and some VOCs, an activated carbon filter is recommended
Never use an ozone generating air purifier in an occupied space
How can BNF Consulting help with indoor air pollution?
While air purifiers may remove some mold spores and particles generated by mold, they do not address the cause of mold and musty odors. BNF Consulting offers many services including mold testing in homes as well as air duct cleaning for mold, smoke/fire, and water damage to ensure healthier air quality and family safety.
If you are concerned for you and your family’s safety or curious about air pollution in your home, schedule a free call with us today at 914-297-8335 to learn more about our services. We also offer a free phone/video consultation.
Esther Hur: Computer science in Binghamton University, BNF Consulting internship program participant.
Justin H. Joe, PhD, CIH, CSP, CPE, is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a principal consultant of BNF Consulting, Inc. Dr. Joe graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with PhD and MS degrees in nuclear engineering. Dr. Joe has provided industrial hygiene consulting as a core function with his diverse background of experience and education. _________________________________________________________________________