We’re well accustomed to a stream of warnings about the threat of air pollution in our towns and cities. During lock-down, however, is our health under greater threat from overexposure to air pollution inside our homes?

Indoor air pollution is a leading risk factor for premature death. It’s responsible for 1.6 million deaths each year, according to a global study published in the medical journal The Lancet

Objects in the home you never realised were harming you

Cleaning products are one of the largest contributors to indoor air pollution. They release harmful chemicals such as VOCs that can hang in the air and enter our lungs.

A joint study by the American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society found lung function drastically declined in female cleaners, whether they worked in homes or workplaces.

Removing toxic products is far from easy because carpets, wall paint and gas stoves are all factors. Even non-stick pans can break down under high temperatures, releasing harmful toxins.

Indoor air pollution is the cause of 1.6 million deaths each year (photo taken by Zoi Koraki on flickr)

Most haunting of all is the slow and persistent fragmentation of plastic objects in the house. Micro-plastics rising into the air means these pollutants drift like ghosts through our corridors.

This is an aspect of indoor pollution that’s a lot harder to maintain. While we can throw away toxic cleaning products, it’s a lot harder to remove plastic products from our homes.

A comparative study of indoor and outdoor airborne micro-plastic showed concentrations were a great deal higher inside our homes.

Micro-plastics have already invaded our water and food, posing huge threats to our health as we ingest them every day. However, the disintegration of plastic in our home through light or friction can kick more plastic particles into the air.

How damaging is indoor air pollution to our health?

Indoor air can be five times more polluted than the air in large cities. This has been linked to the terrifying rise in asthma and impaired lung growth reported in children.

Other problems linked to indoor air pollution include cancer and blindness, according to a report by the World Heath Organisation.

Indoor air pollutants might be the cause of symptoms you have suffered for years. Headaches, shortness of breath or even a cough could be a result of overexposure, according to an article in The New York Times.

How the pandemic has worsened this threat

Homes and buildings are confined spaces and it’s undeniable too much time spent indoors can be detrimental to our health. However, little concern seems to be raised about the issue.

While staying indoors has been the the only option for the majority of us during the pandemic, now seems the perfect time to reduce risks in our own home.

Five simple ways to cut indoor air pollution

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a multitude of companies offer ways to cut indoor air pollution. If cleansing your house of air pollutants seems impossible, don’t worry – there are ways.

Quarantine may give us the chance to massively improve our indoor health.

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