Indoor air pollution far more problematic than previously suspected

A smoggy 1972 Los Angeles backdrop to U.S. flag
A smoggy 1972 Los Angeles backdrop to U.S. flag

On the Air Quality Matters blog, I have done a lot of reporting on air quality out of doors. What I have written on I would say only very minimally is the condition of the air indoors. What I had not known was the extent of the indoor air quality issue.

Much to my surprise, there are more early deaths due to the quality of indoor air (or rather from the lack thereof) than premature deaths as a result of the inhalation of unhealthful, dangerous outside air. More early deaths attributed to indoor air pollution or no, the news is not good.

Posted Apr. 5, 2013 at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) News Centre is the “World Health Day: Climate and Clean Air Coalition Targets Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution,” press release.

The release opens up with information about air pollution health dangers and how large a problem polluted air is. When I say large what I really mean is the number of premature deaths attributed to unhealthy air there are.

“As one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental initiatives, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) renewed its call today for rapid action to reduce some of the greatest hazards to human health,” noted the UNEP.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the health dangers presented by air pollution are far larger than previously thought. ‘Air pollution is becoming one of the biggest public health issues we have in front of us at the moment,’ Dr. Maria Neira, Director of Public Health and Environment at WHO, said at a recent CCAC meeting. ‘The estimations we have now tell us there are 3.5 million premature deaths every year caused by household air pollution, and 3.3 million deaths every year caused by outdoor air pollution.’”

Doing the math, that’s 6.8 million premature deaths attributed to air pollution worldwide.

“Indoor air pollution alone is the leading risk factor for burden of disease (years of life lost combined with years lived at less than full health) in South Asia. It is ranked second in Eastern, Central and Western Sub-Saharan Africa, and third in South East Asia.”

The UNEP also underscored that “Ground-level ozone pollution is estimated to cause an additional 200 thousand premature deaths annually.”

I am quite taken aback by the fact there are more early deaths from polluted air produced indoors versus that which is produced outside.

Anyway one looks at this, polluted air – both indoor and outdoor – is a problem that must be corrected and presents a health hazard so serious in my opinion that the problem must not be ignored.

Image above: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

– Alan Kandel

This post was last revised on Jan. 14, 2020 @ 7:27 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.

5 thoughts on “Indoor air pollution far more problematic than previously suspected”

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  2. This is why I go out in the woods every week. Carbon monoxide, VOCs, mold, etc…Indoor air pollution is surely a great danger for health. Spend more time outdoors people 🙂

    • In reading your comment, I feel it would have been more helpful or clear if you had been a bit more specific. The suggestion that people “spend more time outdoors” alone sans pointing out “where” outdoors more time should or could be spent, is of really limited help in my opinion.

      From the above article, it was revealed that outdoor air pollution was responsible for the early deaths of 3.3 million people worldwide. On top of this and also from the article above, ground-level ozone contributes to an additional estimated 200,000 “premature deaths annually.”

      Moreover, air quality in a number of national parks around the country has become more and more problematic over the years.

      It therefore goes without saying that by simply being outdoors this would not necessarily be in all people’s best interest. It would depend on the circumstance.

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