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The health impact of indoor and outdoor air pollution

We breathe 15,000 litres of air every day. Apart from the oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2) essential for survival, the atmosphere also consists of harmful foreign substances. When detectable, they are considered to be air pollution. Air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk, killing an estimated 7 million worldwide every year. 4.2 million of those deaths are from ambient air pollution, while 3.8 million are from household exposure. Let’s take a closer look at the exact health impact of outdoor versus indoor air pollution, and discover what can be done about it.

The health impact of outdoor air pollution

Outdoor air pollution comes from many sources, including industry, transport, power generation, and municipal and agricultural waste management. These release pollutants such as ammonia (NH3), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The health impact from these outdoor sources includes an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) published the following statistics, whereby of the 4.2 million deaths from worldwide ambient (outdoor) air pollution:

  • 29% are from lung cancer
  • 17% are from acute lower respiratory infection
  • 24% are from stroke
  • 25% are from ischaemic heart disease
  • 43% are from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

The health impact of indoor air pollution

Indoor air pollution comes from both ambient and indoor sources. These include biological and chemical contaminants, building materials, and combustion byproducts from cooking and heating. In developing countries, the latter are especially harmful. The burning of wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal, dung, and kerosene in open fires and inefficient stoves releases pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), particulate matter (PM), and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Women and young children who spend the most time next to the hearth are particularly vulnerable, as the levels of fine particles can get up to 100 times higher indoors. 

The health impact from these indoor sources include Sick Building Syndrome, cataracts, poisoning, strokes, respiratory infections, heart and pulmonary diseases, and lung cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) published the following statistics, whereby of the 3.8 million deaths from worldwide household air pollution:

  • 27% are from pneumonia
  • 18% are from stroke
  • 27% are from ischaemic heart disease
  • 20% are from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • 8% are from lung cancer

What can be done about indoor and outdoor air pollution?

The first step towards taking action on increased levels of air pollution is knowing about them, and studying their patterns to identify sources and solutions. This is why, alongside government policies and initiatives, creating an air quality monitoring network is the best way to manage both indoor and outdoor air pollution. At Breeze Technologies, we recognize the propensity of pollutants to travel far from its sources to other areas, including indoors. Thus, our small form factor sensors are built to be used anywhere. They require minimal setup, measure for all major pollutants noted to affect human health, and provide real-time data and analyses for immediate, accurate, and effective decision-making. Contact us today for a healthier tomorrow!