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Depending on where you live, you are well familiar with either summer and/or winter air pollution. Summer air pollution is caused by wildfires or from chemical reactions of exhausts from various anthropogenic and natural sources (photosmog). Winter air pollution relates among other things to wood and coal burning. Under such situation sensitive people stay inside to avoid exposure. But are they really safe? Various studies in different regions of the world showed that indoor air pollution can be even higher than outside. How can that be? Why is that? And what can you do about it to enjoy every breath you take? This post answers these questions and suggests a solution to the problem.

Contents
  1. Did you know that air pollution also occurs inside?
  2. Why is indoor air pollution bad for you?
  3. What are the main sources for indoor air pollution?
  4. Indoor air pollution can be higher than outdoors
  5. How to improve you indoor air quality
  6. How does a medical grade air purifier work
  7. Where can you find the AirMax8L and AirMic4S?
  8. Summary and conclusion
  9. References

Disclosure: Ad. The Advanced Medical Grade H13 True HEPA air purifier is a sample from okaysou. The post is not endorsed by them. I wrote it entirely myself and it represents my own 100% honest opinion.

Did you know that air pollution also occurs inside?

Well, whenever you open a window or the door there is an exchange between indoor and outdoor air. Vents promote the exchange. Thus, during outdoor air pollution episodes, indoor air quality worsens over time. As conditions outdoors get better, indoor air can get better with a time delay. That’s easy to understand. You also know from your chemistry class that when you mix polluted and unpolluted air the result is polluted air, but at lower concentration than before.

This means that indoor air pollution can only be higher than those outside when there are emission sources inside the building.

While you hardly can do something about these indoor emission, the good news is you can fight indoor air pollution using a medical grade airpurifier.

Why is indoor air pollution bad for you?

A main indoor and outdoor pollutant is fine particulate matter of 2.5 μm or less in diameter – known as PM2.5.  It can be everything from mold to particles of various chemicals. Medical studies revealed that exposure to PM2.5 is health-adverse. Poor indoor air quality can cause respiratory problems especially in children. Some studies linked low indoor air quality to fatigue, headache, sick-building syndrome, a 6 to 9% reduced performance of office work, and even cancer! See the references at the end of this post.

What are the main sources for indoor air pollution?

Indoor emissions of PM2.5 stem from cooking, wood stoves and fireplaces as well as and heating. Other sources are burning candles, smoking, incense, insect repellent coils, cleaning, animals, household and office appliances. Wear and tear also produces indoor airborne particles. Fine particulate matter may also form by gas-to-particle conversion from precursor gases like nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) or volatile organic compounds (VOC). These gases stem from wood smoke, outgassing of building material, carpets and furniture. In houses with attached or built-in garages, add vehicle emissions to the mix. Silicates (e.g. soil, sand) brought in with your shoes, spores, mold and pollen were also found in indoor air.

microscopic house dust NIAID, CC BY 2.0
Indoor air particles under the microscope. The hair in your nose can’t filter these out. Consequelty, they can penetrate deep into your lungs with every breath you take. NIAID, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Did you know that in New England, homes with a woodstove have 20.6% higher PM2.5 concentrations than those without a woodstove? #indoorair #airquality Click To Tweet

 

Indoor pollution can be higher than outdoors

In contrast to emissions outside, indoor emissions have less space to spread into. Consequently, even small emission rates can yield high concentrations fast! Other factors determining the indoor pollutant concentrations and distribution are airflow and particle removal processes. Thus, indoor pollutant concentrations vary with the duration and intensity of ventilation, household size and the indoor activities of the household members. Think the more people, the more the air gets mixed when they move around.

This means that indoor pollutant concentrations are higher at sleeping height at night when the air is undisturbed; while they are higher at breathing height when people move around in the house.

graphs comparing indoor and outdoor concentration of PM2.5
Comparison of monthly mean concentrations of PM2.5 outdoors and in residences at different heights as well as in office/commercial buildings. These graph indicate that on average over a month indoor concentrations can be much higher than those outdoors. From Edwin and Mölders (2020)

 

duirnal course of PM2.5 at 0.61 m height in various months
Diurnal course of PM2.5 indoor concentrations at 0.61 m (sleeping height) in homes in various months. You can clearly see the increase in concentrations around breakfast, lunch and dinner time. Variations among months are due to heating, duration of opening windows etc. From Edwin and Mölders (2020)
daily course of indoor air pollution at breathing height
Diurnal course of PM2.5 indoor concentrations at 1.52 m (breathing height) in homes in various months. Here you see that in July and August concentrations go down when people spend more time outside. From Edwin and Mölders (2020)

 

duirnal course of poor air quality in office and commercial buildings
Diurnal course of PM2.5 indoor concentrations at 1.52 m (breathing height) in office or commercial buildings in various months. Here you see the increase in concentrations during work/open hours and decrease at night when nobody is in the building. Again you see a peak around noon when employees microwave their lunch. From Edwin and Mölders (2020)

Based on medical research the Environmental Pollution Agency (EPA) has set standards that are considered unhealthy when exceeded. This standard is 35 μ g / m-3 for the 24 h mean PM2.5 concentration. Healthy conditions have concentrations of 12 μ g / m-3 or less.

Fazit: Being inside may not necessarily reduce your exposure to unhealthy air!

… but you can do something about it!

How to improve you indoor air quality

Sure, you could sleep on a bunk at night to decrease your exposure to poor air. But this wouldn’t solve the overall problem! Intensive cleaning or vaccum cleaning also won’t do the trick! Cleaning degrents also emit VOCs. The increased moisture in the house from frequent cleaning could yield mold. Vacuum cleaner mostly pull out the large, but not the invisible dangerous small particles.

Your best option is an airpurifier like the one shown below.

okaysou airpurifier in operation

How does a medical grade air purifier work

Currently, Okaysou offers two different sizes of our air purifiers. They are the AirMax8L and AirMic4S. Both air cleaning devices are using the unique medical grade ultra-duo filtration. This filtration technique permits capturing the widest range of pollutants to clean air. The filtration efficiently removes visible large particles such as dust, pet hair and dander, pollen, and invisible small particles such as mold mites, bacteria, smoke, allergens as well as VOC. For more info and/or to buy an airpurifier, please check out their official website https://www.okaysou.com/.

The filter has to be exchanged when the display indicates to do so. It’s easy as 1-2-3. Just switch off the airpurifier, unplug it (for safety), turn it around, open the filter holder lid, exchange the filter, close the device, turn it around, plug in, switch on (See infographic for the steps). Typically, filters last 6 to 8 months.

infographic explaining the exchange of the filter of an okaysou airpurifier

Where can you find the AirMax8L and AirMic4S?

You can buy the AirMax8L and AirMic4S on Amazon or directly at okaysou. There you can also get replacement filters. The device comes with a brand new filter inside already. All you have to do is to remove the plastic bag, which is around the filter. And you are ready to embrace every breath.

Summary and conclusion

Long-term exposure to indoor pollution is health adverse. You can actively improve your indoor air quality by using medical grade air purifiers. The AirMax8L and AirMic4S devices are very affordable ($88.95, $119.99) and might save you money in medical bills. Cleaning your indoor air will give you the peace of mind for every breath you and your household members take. Set the start your healthy indoor life now.

Did you know that you can contribute to decrease outdoor and indoor emissions of air pollutants by using EPA certified devices for heating.

Did you know that you can help to reduce outdoor air pollution by not idling your diesel vehicle?

Update 5/17/2021. Note that recently, Okaysou added an air purifier for large rooms. Read more about the Air Max L Pro here on the blog.

 

References

Berglund, B., Brunekreef, B., Knöppe, H., Lindvall, T., Maroni, M., MØlhave, L. and Skov, P. (1992) Effects of Indoor Air Pollution on Human Health. Indoor Air, 2, 2-25.
doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0668.1992.02-21.x

Edwin, S.G. and Mölders, N. (2020) Indoor and Outdoor Particulate Matter Exposure of Rural Interior Alaska Residents. Open Journal of Air Pollution, 9, 37-60. doi: 10.4236/ojap.2020.93004

Fleisch, A.F., Rokoff, L.B., Garshick, E., Grady, S.T., Chipman, J.W., Baker, E.R., Koutrakis, P. and Karagas, M.R. (2020) Residential Wood Stove Use and Indoor Exposure to PM2.5 and Its Components in Northern New England. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 30, 350-361. doi.org/10.1038/s41370-019-0151-4

Hodas, N., Loh, M., Shin, H.-M., Li, D., Bennett, D., Mckone, T.E., Jolliet, O., Weschler, C.J., Jantunen, M., Lioy, P. and Fantke, P. (2016) Indoor Inhalation Intake Fractions of Fine Particulate Matter: Review of Influencing Factors. Indoor Air, 26, 836-856. doi: 10.1111/ina.12268

Photos of me: G. Kramm
Other photos: N. Mölders

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Jodie

    We used to have an air purifier at our dental office, but I never thought of one for our home.
    Thanks for sharing this,
    XOOX
    Jodie

Comments are closed.