Cooking and cleaning generate more indoor pollution than you think
Outdoor pollution is a hot topic, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of keeping pollution to manageable levels. On the flip side, people often overlook indoor air quality. Inside people's homes, there are no regulations and guidelines to help keep the indoor air pollution levels low. In fact, according to the EPA, the levels of indoor air pollutants can be up to five times higher than those outdoors. They can be related to respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Moreover, the World Health Organization stated that 3.8 million people die from exposure to pollution generated in their homes every year. Remarkably, indoor air is not receiving the necessary attention, considering that people spend 90% of their time inside.
The most common indoor air pollution source is cooking, especially when roasting and frying. This activity increases its danger when done with gas, kerosene, coal, or biomass fuelled stoves, which more than 2 billion people still use nowadays.
According to a study by Zehnder UK, roasting activities can increase indoor PM2.5 concentration levels to the levels of the most polluted cities in the world. To add to this, people are more at risk of inhaling PM2.5 particles when preparing their morning breakfast than they would walk on a busy road!
Sadly indoor pollution doesn't stop at cooking. Airborne chemicals are everywhere in our homes, including cleaning products and air fresheners. Furthermore, cleaning activities also add to this, with vacuuming being one of the leading indoor air pollution activities. In this case, experts advise having vacuums with high-grade filters, which allow more efficient capture of dust particles.
Researchers found that the indoor pollutant representing a higher risk to humans is particle pollution, including fine particles such as those with 2.5 micrometers in diameter and less. PM2.5 can quickly enter the respiratory system and bloodstream, sometimes causing severe health problems.
The solution to decreasing the indoor air pollution levels would be ventilation. Of course, this may be difficult for people that live near high-traffic areas or busy urban centers.
In those cases, air filtration with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter would be advisable. Moderately using cleaning products, changing to electric stoves, and limiting incense and candle lighting can also help reduce the levels of air pollution.
Other solutions discussed are range hoods, but there is a debate about whether they are as effective as we think. Nowadays there are many range hood in the market. They provide information about their noise reduction and energy-saving capabilities. Still, they give no information on their effectiveness in capturing pollutants. The Berkeley Lab researchers aim to establish an ASTM International test standard that manufacturers could voluntarily use to rate their products.
Don't forget that an indoor air sensor can let you know then the PM2.5 concentrations have increased inside your home to take preventive measures quickly.