The coronavirus crisis has accentuated the importance of air quality on our health. During the months of March and April saw how our living habits have a clear effect on the quality of the air outside.
Due to the decrease in industrial activity and mobility during the quarantine radically changed the images of large cities such as Paris, Milan, or Madrid.
Nitrogen dioxide levels during the second half of March 2020 were reduced by more than 75%. On the other hand, the concentration of suspended particles was reduced by 30-50%.
As a result of the growing awareness of the problems associated with air pollution, numerous strategies and studies have been developed on the impact of harmful substances on human health and the environment.
Among them, a study carried out by a team from the Chan School of Public Health T.H. at Harvard last November provided evidence that long-term exposure to air pollution with fine particles (of a PM2.5 size) is clearly related to premature death.
Additionally, this study showed that when these particles are inhaled, they can enter deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. This leads to increased hospital admissions, increased deaths, and substantial economic costs.
But what about the quality of the air or indoor environment?
Clear indices have not yet been defined, nor have many initiatives been developed to take action to improve indoor air. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Commission already include some specific section of the indoor environment.
In fact, the WHO estimates in one of its reports that, just as air pollution due to particles is responsible for 1.4% of all deaths worldwide, indoor air pollution has an even greater effect. These effects are even greater in developing countries.
Low indoor air quality is due to a number of factors. These include the use of fossil fuels in homes, the use of a wide variety of chemicals, cleaning products, pesticides, air fresheners, cleaners, tobacco smoke, and emissions from furniture and products used in construction.
How does poor indoor air quality affect the environment?
Exposure to indoor air with harmful agents has major economic consequences, both in terms of public expenditure and in terms of lost workdays, which increases absenteeism.
Moreover, current standards for indoor ventilation and air conditioning do not take into account productivity in offices and schools.
The requirements set are quite modest and focus on making the indoor air “acceptable“. This makes them unsuitable for the most sensitive group of workers or students. Yet this group represents approximately 20% of the total.
Consequently, any investment aimed at achieving healthier indoor environments should not be considered a barrier.
“An improvement in air quality by a factor of 2 to 7 compared to existing standards could significantly increase productivity in offices and learning in schools”
The benefits to be gained from improvements in the quality of interior spaces are numerous.
In fact, recent studies show how an improvement in air quality by a factor of 2 to 7 compared to existing standards could significantly increase productivity in offices and learning in schools.
At the same time, improving air quality in homes could decrease the risk of allergic symptoms and asthma.