The dangers of indoor air pollution

Using a toaster, frying food on the stove, mopping a floor, even breathing—these are all activities that could push indoor air pollution to dangerous levels, according to recent findings.

An April 1, 2019 article in The New Yorker described research that has found that regular indoor activities can cause spikes in substances such as volatile organic compounds, nitric oxide, carbon dioxide, and fine particulate matter, all of which can harm health at high levels.

In one recent project, researchers cooked a Thanksgiving dinner in a test home and found that levels of fine particulate matter reached as high as 285 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3). In comparison, fine particulate matter levels in New Dehli, which has poor air quality, average around 225 µg/m3 during the dirtier winter months.

Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, told the New Yorker that the high Thanksgiving-related levels of fine particulate matter shocked her. “Even short term increases of just ten micrograms per cubic meter from one day to the next will increase hospital admission rates and mortality in the over sixty-fives,” she said.

Read the New Yorker article: The Hidden Air Pollution in our Homes

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