With the September 7 being proclaimed the International Day of Clean Air by the United Nations (“UN”), it’s an opportunity to reinforce the importance of cleaning the air we share and the significant consequence of poor air quality. In fact, the World Health Organization’s has stated that clean air is a basic human right, with that view supported by the UN.
Over the past two years, the fact that COVID is transmittable through the air has given a renewed focus on the importance of indoor air quality. However, that importance of healthy indoor air is not just limited to virus transmission – it’s impacted by so much more such as germs, other viruses, odors, allergens, VOCs and more.
The goal of the International Day of Clean Air is to place a focus “on the transboundary nature of air pollution, stressing the need for collective accountability and action” to improve the air we share.
According to the UN, “air pollution is the greatest environmental threat to health , causing approximately 7 million premature deaths each year from diseases like stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.”
As we commit to cleaning the air we share, we can’t underestimate the importance of indoor air quality on our overall health, wellbeing and productivity given the amount of time we all spend indoors.
The average person inhales 3,000 gallons of indoor air every day. Most people spend 90% of their time indoors and nine hours per day in shared environments — spaces that are up to five times more polluted than outdoors.
Improving indoor air quality provides a myriad of benefits including better overall physical health, fewer allergens in their working environments, fewer airborne contaminants, better overall mental health and even improved productivity and problem solving.
Not only is healthy indoor air important for our health and wellbeing, but bad air impacts the bottom line
- $225.8 billion dollars evaporates from the economy every year in lost productivity from sick days
- In fact, the EPA estimates that Sick Building Syndrome alone is responsible for $60 Billion in lost revenue.
- Average company cost of one sick day is $1,685
What’s in the Air?
While the focus on indoor air quality over the last two years has understandably been on the aerosolized transmission of COVID-19, there are many contaminants that contribute to unhealthy indoor air:
Germs, Bacteria and Viruses in Addition to COVID-19
Experts agree that the flu virus is mainly spread through airborne droplets. These droplets are made when people cough, sneeze or talk. Despite flu shots and hand sanitization, Americans still catch about one billion colds and 60 million flu cases annually.
Approximately 20% of all people are affected by allergies . Allergic reactions can be triggered by irritants such as seasonal pollen/ragweed, mold, pet dander and dust mites. These irritants also result in respiratory issues for those with asthma, which impacts 1 out of every 10 children.
Air Pollution from Wildfires
According to a recent study published by the journal Geohealth, Wildfire smoke leads to fine-particle pollution in the Western U.S. Wildfire smoke now accounts for more than half the air pollution measured annually in the Western region. Worse, the pollution caused by the wildfires isn’t just smoke created by wood and tinder, it encompasses VOCs from houses caught in crossfire. Those irritants can compromise respiratory systems and even potentially spread COVID-19.
VOCs and Other Contaminants
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful chemicals emitted from everyday products, sometimes even when they are stored. Paints, cleaning supplies, office equipment and more can contain VOCs. These VOCs can potentially trigger headaches, asthma and allergy attacks.
Other airborne contaminants include:
- Mold Spores
- Pet Odors and Dander
- Cigarette Smoke
- Fine Air Pollution
What We Can Do
International Day of Clean Air is an important reminder of the serious consequence of air pollution and how it impacts the health and well-being of the public.
Awareness of air quality must extend to our indoor working environments – in the spaces where many of us spend significant portions of our time.
Let’s work together at home and in our workplaces, schools, communities, governments and across borders to improve the quality of our air. We can start by raising awareness of the importance of healthy air with peers, leaders, our government representatives and other others in the community and discuss the various options to clean the air we share.
Here are a few resources to get your started:
- International Day of Clean Air
- How Viruses Are Transmitted
- Air Change Rates Matter
- What You Need to Know About Wildfire Season
- Allergy Season May be the Strongest Yet
- 5 Questions to Ask When Selecting an Air Purification System
Please let us know if you have any questions about improving indoor quality or need any help. Together, we can make a difference.