Healthy Indoor Air Quality in a Changing Climate
January 15, 2016
Nick Bradford

Did you know?

  • The average American spends up to 90% of their time indoors.
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.
  • Common indoor asthma triggers include mold, dust mites, secondhand smoke, and pet hair.
  • Between 200,000 and 1,000,000 children with asthma have their condition made worse by exposure to secondhand smoke each year.
  • Poor indoor air quality costs the US economy more than $10 billion a year by worsening illnesses and allergenic symptoms, and reducing productivity.

A changing climate will make common indoor air pollutants more widespread and more severe through increased extreme weather events and home weatherization. An increase in extreme temperatures and precipitation can lead to increased humidity and mold growth indoors, and more frequent droughts and wildfires can result in exposure to more smoke, dust, VOCs, CO, and NO2. Weatherizing homes by sealing leaks and adding insulation helps to save energy and money, but it also reduces ventilation that removes indoor air pollutants.

Common indoor air pollutants and their sources include:

  • Fireplaces, space heaters, and wood and gas stoves emit carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2),
  • Air fresheners, paints, cleaning supplies, and furniture emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs),
  • Radon-contaminated soil and water emit radon,
  • Increased humidity, leaks, and excess moisture promote mold growth,
  • Pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals host dust mites,
  • Cigarettes emit secondhand smoke, and
  • Cats and dogs shed pet dander.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Steps you can take to maintain healthy indoor air quality include improving ventilation, controlling moisture levels, reducing pollutants, and increasing energy efficiency.

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