Last March, as people around the world shuttered into their homes to limit their chance of contracting COVID, an unfortunate side effect began occurring… indoor air quality plummeted.
In fact, air quality monitors around Europe detected that between March and early May, levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increased by 15 to 30 percent.
Fortunately, the warm summer months have given many of us a chance to get back outdoors and enjoy the benefits of fresh outdoor air. But, as the fall approaches, it’s important to think about how to keep our indoor air quality from deteriorating again.
Why did the air quality in our homes deteriorate so much?
- Cooking. With restaurants closed and anxiety about the safety of takeout, many people opted to cook all their meals at home. Unfortunately, cooking is one of the biggest causes of indoor air pollution. The pollutants created by cooking can actually be so serious that, according to a recent article in Scope, Stanford Medicine’s publication, they “can cause health problems such as respiratory illness and asthma attacks.
- Cleaning products. In the spring, most experts were emphasizing the importance of keeping surfaces disinfected, leading to an increase in harsh cleaning products and overuse of chemicals. From January to March of this year, the CDC reported a 20% increase in calls compared to the same period last year.
- Exposure to other indoor pollutants. The EPA has found that indoor air often has a concentration of two to five times more pollutants than outdoor air. Mold, radon, pesticides, dust, smoke, bacteria, viruses, and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) all present health hazards, especially when we’re spending so much time indoors.
Can Indoor Air Quality Affect Your Risk Of Covid Complications?
While staying home can be a good way to keep from contracting the virus, if you were to get sick, being exposed to pollutants may make you more likely to be hospitalized for these reasons:
- Pollution can cause or aggravate respiratory illnesses like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which may make you more susceptible to the worst effects of lung infections.
- People exposed to air pollution are more likely to suffer complications from COVID.
How can we keep our indoor air quality high if there’s another shutdown?
There are a number of steps we can take to avoid another dip in our indoor air quality such as:
- Ensuring that gas stoves are well ventilated
- Reducing the use of harsh cleaners and scented products
- Keeping windows and doors open as much as possible
While all of these measures can help reduce pollutants in your indoor air clean, perhaps the most important step we can take to improving our indoor air quality is to purchase an air purifier. Not only will a high-quality air purifier remove pollutants such as dust, mold, and smoke from the air, there is also increasing evidence that HEPA filters may play a role in reducing COVID transmission.