In cities where heavy air pollution is a big concern, people tend to keep their windows closed as a way to protect themselves. But unfortunately, this can have the reverse effect.
The US Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks today. Most of us spend more than 90% of our time indoors, and poor ventilation can result in indoor air pollution that is 2-5 times worse than outdoor air-quality levels.
Particulate matter, biocontaminant pollutants and volatile organic compounds; these air pollutants can be found all around us in our day-to-day environments. Many of these particles are small enough to travel into our lungs and blood, which can cause severe health effects.
Even in low concentrations, pollutants can trigger allergic reactions and respiratory conditions such as asthma, and can accumulate in the body over time, leading to chronic illness and more severe conditions. In 2015, the World Health Organisation released a study on the effects of long-term exposure to fine particulate matter—the most significant element of air pollution. They concluded it had contributed to more than 4.2 million premature deaths.
According to the UNICEF 2016 Clean the Air for Children Report, children are at an even higher risk. They take in more air relative to their body weight, and their respiratory tracks are more permeable. They have higher metabolisms than adults, and their immune systems are weaker which makes them more susceptible to pollutants and more likely to be affected by harmful substances in the environment.