Air pollution has been dominating headlines as of late, as the risks that come with the fumes are well-documented. Now, researchers from Washington State University are exploring the harms that are right inside consumers’ homes.
The study revealed that many consumers are living with air pollution inside their homes, which can be affected by temperature changes or time of day and can leave residents at risk.
“People think of air pollution as an outdoor problem, but they fail to recognize that they’re exposing themselves to much higher emission rates inside their homes,” said researcher Tom Jobson.
Preventing risks at home
While steps have been taken to help regulate air pollution outdoors, legislators have skimmed over consumers’ homes.
To see how consumers are being affected at home, the researchers evaluated homes that reflect the current model and year of those most commonly found in the United States and found that many have higher than normal levels of pollutants within their four walls.
Mercury and formaldehyde were the two most common pollutants, and the study revealed that different temperatures and times of day can affect the pollution level in consumers’ homes.
“As a home gets hotter, there is a lot more formaldehyde in the home,” said Jobson. “The materials are hotter and they off-gas at higher rates.”
Contrary to what many have previously believed, pollutant levels differ throughout the course of the day, peaking in the afternoon hours, while they’re lowest during morning time.
There’s no one thing that can increase the likelihood of indoor air pollution, as the researchers note the emissions can come from just about anything -- day-to-day chores, cooking, cleaning products, or furniture.
However, there is a foolproof way to reduce emissions in the home: keep the house ventilated, particularly with easy access to windows and doors.
“Exposure to these chemicals impacts people’s ability to think and learn,” Jobson said. “It’s important for people to be more cognizant of the risk -- opening a window is a good thing. We have to balance making more energy efficient homes with protecting our health and cognitive function.”
Air pollution-related risks
Air pollution affects all those who breathe in its emissions, but recently, researchers have explored the countless ways children are affected by the pollutants.
While general health problems are worsened due to air pollution, children are also affected in the classroom and on the scale. Most recently, researchers have found that children’s anxiety symptoms worsened when they were exposed to traffic-related air pollution.
“I think it can speak to a bigger impact on population health...that increased exposure to air pollution can trigger the brain’s inflammatory response...” researcher Dr. Kelly Brunst said. “This may indicate that certain populations are at an increased risk for poorer anxiety outcomes.”