Indoor air quality may be a trendy topic of late. But don’t get it twisted! Simply because the topic is “in” doesn’t mean it’s a passing fad or of little importance. In reality, indoor air quality is an important subject matter with far-reaching significance.
It’s also not a novel topic. While IAQ awareness is growing and public discussion is at an all-time high, indoor air quality as a field has existed for decades. Public discourse is finally catching up. This is perhaps most true in relation to public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.” Air quality, both indoors and out, is a key public health issue.
Why Is Air Quality a Public Health Issue?
Public health recognizes all of the factors that affect individual health. Things like genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Air quality is an environmental factor.
The purpose of public health is intervention. The goal is to prevent community health issues, infectious spread and diseases from happening in the first place and from recurring. As a discipline, the mindset is to protect an entire populations’ health at once. This type of intervention and prevention both prolongs life and improves overall quality of life.
The relationship between air quality and public health is clear and evident to all in an ideal world. Nevertheless, many are confused or unclear about the connection. All in all, air quality is a public health issue because air quality is an individual health issue. Air quality, both indoors and out, has significant affects on human health and the environment. Exposure to air pollution can result in short-term symptoms as well as long-term conditions and disease development. This level of threat and risk to individual human health automatically makes air pollution and air quality a larger health issue.
How Does Air Quality Affect Public Health?
Both outdoor air quality and indoor air quality affect public health. Similarly, outdoor air pollution exposure and indoor air pollution exposure are both significant environmental exposure points for everyone.
In fact, the United Nations (UN) cites air pollution as the largest environmental health threat globally. The UN also pushes for a greater recognition of air pollution as the largest contributing environmental factor to the burden of disease. A statistic of significance … air pollution is responsible for between 7 and 9 million premature deaths every year, worldwide.
What Are the Effects of Air Pollution Exposure on Human Health?
Air pollution affects human health in many ways. Overall, air pollution increases a population’s morbidity and mortality rates. Adverse health effects from exposure span the respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological organ systems to name a few.
How Does Indoor Air Quality Affect Public Health?
While both outdoor air quality and indoor air quality are public health issues, recognition of indoor air pollution exposure as a public health factor is increasing.
In many ways, this is thanks to the growing acknowledgement of humans as a primarily indoor species. After all, the average person spends roughly 90% of their lives indoors. Thanks to modern life, increased time spent indoors in turn increases indoor pollution exposure and makes indoor air quality a critical health aspect.
Again, to reiterate, potential adverse health effects from indoor air pollution is not a new concern nor concept. Epidemiological studies first provided evidence of this risk in the 1970s. Now, 50 years later, the current focus on IAQ offers ample opportunity to create healthier indoor environments for generations to come.
How To Intervene in Your Space
What is the next step? Advocating on behalf of improved air quality and indoor air quality as well as continuing to build your own air quality awareness! But perhaps most personal of all, intervening in your own home. Why not take action in your living and working space?
There are five main IAQ control strategies. You can find a brief overview here! There is no one-size-fits-all IAQ solution. The best step forward will depend on your space’s IAQ pain points and indoor environment woes. Consulting with an experienced HVAC contractor can help. Regardless of the next step you choose, taking any step is what really matters.