Big cities are the poster children for air pollution. We’ve all seen pictures of the smog hanging around Los Angeles, or the clouds of fumes coming from New York City’s army of yellow taxi cabs. Just moving to the suburbs won’t keep you safe though. According to a new study, the worst air pollution is a lot closer to home.
A study by the University of Sheffield has found that the air we breathe inside our own homes can have pollutant levels three times higher than the outdoor environment in dense urban areas and along busy roads.
“We spend 90 percent of our time indoors and work hard to make our homes warm, secure and comfortable, but we rarely think about the pollution we might be breathing in,” said Professor Vida Sharifi, who led the research. “Energy is just one source of indoor pollution, but it is a significant one. And as we make our homes more airtight to reduce heating costs, we are likely to be exposed to higher levels of indoor pollution, with potential impacts on our health.”
The researchers compared a rural house with two apartments, one in Sheffield city and the other in an urban location next to a busy road. The rural house had an electric stove while both apartments used gas appliances. Samples were taken outside and inside the properties, from each kitchen, over a four week period.
The average particle concentrations measured by the research team in the kitchens of both apartments with gas cookers were higher than the levels set by the Government as its objective for outdoor air quality in both London and England. Although the U.S. acknowledges the hazards of indoor air quality, especially where chemical-based cleaners and fragrances are used on a regular basis, it too lacks enforceable safety standards. The closest thing to come out of the EPA is a voluntary guidance document, Healthy Indoor Environment Protocols for Home Energy Upgrades, that provides a set of best practices for improving indoor air quality in conjunction with energy retrofit work in homes.
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