Outdoor air quality in the United States has been steadily improving since the 1970s due to tighter emission restrictions on major pollutants. But for many Americans, the air we breathe indoors poses more of a danger than the air outside.
Increasing evidence shows that air within homes and other buildings can be worse than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. And because Americans are spending about ninety percent of their time inside, the health risks become even greater.
Second-hand tobacco smoke damages children’s growing lungs, while exposure to radon has been linked to lung cancer. Formaldehyde in building materials and household products can cause eye and throat irritation, and trigger asthma. Some pesticides may cause long-term damage to the liver and central nervous system, as well as an increased risk of cancer. And don’t forget asbestos and lead, which still persist in many older structures.
Even stoves, fireplaces and some heaters release gases and particles that cause damage to lung tissue and even death. Lung infections, like pneumonia, are the leading cause of death among children in developing countries and are linked to exposure to indoor cooking smoke.
The Environmental Protection Agency advises three strategies to clean up your air. Eliminate sources of pollution or reduce their emissions, increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors, and use air cleaners that can remove particles. It’s clear that we need to care about the air we breathe inside… as well as out.