Air pollution is mostly associated with outdoor air quality. That’s because the indoor air quality facts aren’t well known. Most of us think the air outside is more polluted because of all the factories, smog, harmful chemicals, etc.
However, it turns out that the air we breathe in our homes might be deadlier than the air we breathe outside. The usual suspects that cause this are mold, the harmful chemicals present in every household, dust, polluting fuels, and small particles.
Take a deep breath, and read some of the most shocking facts about indoor air quality. If you’re a numbers person, don’t worry, we’ve prepared many impressive stats as well. You’ll find out something new and useful and hopefully share it so more people become aware of this.
The Top 8 Indoor Air Quality Facts and Stats
- Up to 3.8 million deaths occur annually due to smoke exposure from cooking fires.
- About 7 million people die every year as a result of indoor and outdoor air pollution.
- Pneumonia and ischaemic heart disease are the most common causes of premature death brought on by indoor pollution.
- 91% of the global population breathes air that’s heavily polluted.
- The global use of solid fuels for cooking needs dropped from 62% in 1980 to 41% in 2010.
- The yearly number of deaths caused by polluted indoor air has dropped by over a million in the last two decades.
- The American indoor air quality market should reach $12.2 billion by the year 2023.
- The US’s air quality seems to have improved nationwide over the past four decades.
The Most Concerning Stats and Facts About Indoor Air Quality
1. 91% of the global population breathes air that’s heavily polluted.
The World Health Organization says that air pollution represents a notable danger to the climate and people’s health. Based on areas where air pollution is monitored, over 80% of the urban population breathes poor-quality air, as per the WHO’s indoor air quality standards.
2. About 7 million people die every year as a result of indoor and outdoor air pollution.
According to the WHO’s indoor air quality statistics, low- and middle-income countries suffer the most from air pollution, including indoor and ambient air pollution. The combination of the two causes acute respiratory infections, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and more.
3. Up to 3.8 million deaths occur annually due to smoke exposure from cooking fires.
The developing world suffers from premature death and disease due to poor home indoor air quality. Households in low- and middle-income countries rely more on burning fuels, including coal, dung, and wood.
They also rely on hazardous stoves that can produce a lot of pollutants, such as particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. Contaminants like these can cause respiratory illnesses and even cancer.
4. The most dangerous indoor air pollutants include benzene, carbon monoxide, environmental tobacco smoke, formaldehyde, lead, naphthalene, and radon.
(EC Europa, NCBI)
The European Commission deems these pollutants as the most concerning. It notes that more data should be gathered on their combined effects, thus allowing space for better indoor air quality regulations and guidelines.
5. Pneumonia and ischaemic heart disease are the most common causes of premature death brought on by indoor pollution.
Some indoor air quality statistics are bleak, but they must be brought to light. The leading causes of the 3.8 million deaths mentioned above are ischaemic heart disease (27%), pneumonia (27%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (20%), stroke (18%), and lung cancer (8%).
6. Almost 3 billion people worldwide use stoves or open fires that pollute when cooking.
Not only do millions die as a direct consequence of improper cooking practices, but there are also many other irreversible consequences. Poor residential indoor air quality combined with inadequate ventilation systems can produce up to 100 times more fine soot particles.
7. 45% of children under the age of 5 who die due to pneumonia became ill from indoor air pollutants.
Nearly half the children under the age of five that die of pneumonia inhaled dangerous particulate matter. The percentage of adult deaths from pneumonia caused by household air pollution is 28%. These are some scary statistics about indoor air quality, but they are real.
Interesting Facts About Indoor Air Quality and Improving It
8. The yearly number of deaths caused by polluted indoor air has dropped by over a million over the last three decades.
(Our World in Data)
The trends in indoor air quality have genuinely improved in the past 30 years. In 1990, the estimated number of premature deaths by residential air pollution was 2.7 million. In 2017, the number dropped to 1.6 million.
Nevertheless, while the number of these deaths has been steadily decreasing worldwide, in Zimbabwe, the death rate has increased slightly.
9. In 2016, 60% of the world had clean cooking fuels available.
(Our World in Data)
Our World in Data provides indoor air quality fun facts showing a positive trend. To put things in perspective, in 2000, only 49% of all households had access to these clean fuels.
In 2016, just 14% of households in Sub-Saharan Africa had access to clean fuels. There was significant progress in East and South Asia—but Africa is still worrisome, according to recent air pollution facts.
10. The global use of solid fuels for cooking dropped from 62% in 1980 to 41% in 2010.
(Our World in Data)
Introducing new energy sources is critical in reducing residential air pollution and lowering its risks. In just three decades, the world saw a significant improvement, but it was mostly the developed world.
Southeast Asia saw the most significant improvement over this period, with the amount of solid cooking fuel used dropping from 95% to 61%. That’s how you lead the air quality statistics and set an example for everyone to follow.
11. High-efficiency particulate air filters remove 99.97% of airborne bacteria, dust, mold, and pollen particles as small as 0.3 microns.
The HEPA statistics on indoor air quality are fascinating because these filters provide the best line of defense against all sorts of dangerous small particles. The filters specify 0.3 microns because that’s the size of the worst, most penetrating type of particles.
There are many commercial HEPA air purifiers available at affordable prices.
12. You can do your radon testing in a relatively short amount of time—and without investing too much money.
When someone thinks of indoor air quality testing, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the cost. Did you know that you can buy an EPA-certified radon test kit in a hardware store and conduct the test yourself?
Sure, you can hire a technician instead, but know that an expert’s air-quality test isn’t cheap, especially if you’re testing for multiple pollutants.
13. The American indoor air quality market should hit $12.2 billion by the year 2023.
This market includes equipment like air cleaners, HVAC filters, and instruments that measure indoor air quality.
The indoor air quality market trends are relatively positive and promising. In 2018, the US’s IAQ market was estimated at $9.6 billion. If the CAGR remains 4.9% for the five years following, the market should grow by over $2.5 billion.
14. The US’s air quality trends seem to have improved nationwide in the past four decades.
US air pollution statistics from the EPA paint a promising picture. Since 1980, air quality has improved immensely, reducing the presence of many common pollutants, especially the following:
- Carbon monoxide was 85% lower in 2019.
- Nitrogen dioxide lowered by 65%.
- Sulfur dioxide was 92% lower.
- Lead saw a 98% reduction.
15. Keeping the home free of smoke should be a top health priority for every family.
We spend most of our time in our homes. When your living quarters are smoke-free, you protect your family, pets, and visitors. It’s one of the undeniable indoor air quality facts.
Each of the mentioned persons or pets can develop various health issues that are related to second-hand smoke. Remember that these toxins are especially harmful to children.
The same rule can be applied to your car, where toxins tend to build up rapidly.
What are the 4 major indoor air pollutants?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are four major air pollutants found indoors in developed countries.
Cigarette smoke is a complex mix of chemical compounds. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound, a colorless gas used in many household products and building materials. Radioactive radon-222 is a colorless, odorless gas found in subsurface rock formations below homes and offices or even in building materials such as granite. Ultrafine particles are nanoscale-sized particulate matter present everywhere.
How bad is indoor air quality?
Note that this info was taken from a 1981 NY Times article. It tells us a lot about the history of indoor air quality, which was questionable back then, and certainly didn’t improve over time.
Indoor air quality can cause various health risks, which include the following:
- Colds and sore throats
- Chronic coughing
- Memory lapses
However, according to the EPA, overall air quality has vastly improved since 1980 (with some air toxins’ presence reduced by as much as 98%). Nevertheless, if you experience any of these symptoms in your home or rental, contact your doctor at the earliest convenience.
(NY Times, EPA)
Where do most indoor air quality problems start?
The EPA tells us that there are many sources of indoor air pollution. These include pesticides, combustion appliances that burn fuel, furnishing and building materials, household and personal care products, radon, and even air pollution coming in from the outside.
How do you measure indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality can be measured, but not without designated equipment. You need to purchase an indoor air quality monitor or sensor. There are many different air quality tests on the market, and they allow testing for different things.
The main elements they test for are particulate matter, radon, humidity, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. As you can see, they check for the most dangerous sources of indoor air pollution.
How can I improve the air quality in my room?
Although some indoor air quality stats may sound worrying, you can improve your living quarters’ air quality. For starters, you need to keep everything clean. Pay extra attention to mold, dust, and pet hair.
Did you know that 70% of homes currently have mold? It’s one of the nastier air pollution statistics.
Next, you’ll want to regularly check your filters, clean them, and change them when necessary. Additionally, you can buy an air purifier and a dehumidifier for damp places. Last but not least, you’ll want to open your windows regularly and let in some fresh air, even during the winter.
Proper ventilation is crucial, but cranking the AC isn’t enough. About 90% of US homes have AC, but do all these home-owners regularly open their windows?
Were these indoor air quality facts scary, or a valuable teaching moment? Modern times are very hectic, and not everyone pays much attention to indoor air quality. However, everyone should, because the situation is much worse than it seems.
You hear a lot of talk about outdoor air quality and how it affects our lives. The importance of indoor air quality should get equal treatment, at the very least—don’t you agree? Let us know in the comments section below.