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This year, on April 22, the entire world celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day from the confinement of their homes. The event was first held to demand environmental protection, yet today, the failure to give clean air the importance it deserves reduces our ability to fight COVID-19. Recent research undertaken by scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany has shown that long-term exposure to polluted air may be “one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus in regions such as Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. Pollution isn’t exclusively faced outdoors, of course. The EPA has warned that air quality in American homes can be two to five times worse than it is outside. What steps can you take to ensure everyone in your home breathes cleaner air?
The above research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, showed that 78% of deaths occurring during the pandemic were in cities with high pollution levels. Outside, the main sources of pollution are particles emanated by vehicles, factories, pollen, mold spores, dust, and wildfires. Indoors, the sources are more hidden but also toxic to health. They include volatile organic compounds emitted by pressed wood furniture, toxins from harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia, and flame retardants found in soft furnishings like sofas. It is important for homeowners to take active steps to reduce pollution levels indoors by cleaning with steam vacuum cleaners instead of harsh products, replacing toxic furniture, and using quality filters to keep pollution outside the home.
A study by VK Vijayan et al states that health statistics on the impact of indoor pollutants are alarming. The WHO states, for instance, that household air pollutants are responsible for around 3.8 million premature deaths every year. The researchers recommend various measures to reduce indoor exposure to biological and non-biological contaminants. These include the installation of air filters that are capable of filtering out a wide array of small particles. Air filters usually come in standard 16x25x1 sized squares, which can be fitted together to cover larger areas as required. The study showed that filters could keep out pollen, dust, mold, dust mites, and bacteria, therefore making a big improvement.
Within the home, HEPA filters can also help enhance the air quality of individual rooms. These filters are capable of filtering tiny particles measuring as little as 0.3 microns. To put things into perspective, most dust particles range between 2 and 10 microns in size. Pollen particles, meanwhile, are 10 to 100 microns in size.
Air pollution is a problem both indoors and outdoors. In times of COVID-19, knowing that poor air quality can contribute to poorer health outcomes is a wake-up call to make vital short and long-term changes. Indoor air quality can easily be improved by replacing the furniture that emits VOCs, installing air filters, and adding HEPA filters to rooms for an extra boost.