Healthy indoor air is a foundation for wellbeing

Posted by Siru Heiskanen on April 13, 2017
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If the water in our glass is dirty, or there is mold growing on our food, we can choose not to consume them. All the same, we walk outdoors in the city air that is filled with exhaust fumes and pollution, without thinking.

It’s easy to ignore the air around us. Even when it’s smoggy or foul-smelling, there is often nothing we can do about it – we can’t refuse from breathing. It is an unconscious process, without which we couldn’t survive for longer than a few minutes.

Each breath we take holds approximately 0.5–2 liters of air in our lungs, consisting mostly of nitrogen, oxygen, and water. It is commonly assumed that colorless and odorless air is clean, but we can’t sense what else it actually contains in addition to its basic elements.

In today's society, we spend most of our time indoors, where the pollution from outdoors is mixed with the indoor chemical sources.

Pollution from traffic and industry affects the whole planet, us humans and our wellbeing with it. Ambient air pollution has been ranked as the single largest environmental health risk by the World Health Organization, as it causes about 7 million premature deaths annually worldwide.

The risk is magnified by the fact that in today's society, we spend most of our time indoors, where the pollution from outdoors is mixed with the indoor chemical sources. There are many other factors that contribute to the air quality, such as temperature and humidity,  which should also be taken into account.

Nature affects our wellbeing through both our minds and bodies.

Air quality affects our minds as well as our bodies

The more serious indoor air problems, such as water and mold damages, can lead to severe health implications and diseases. Those include somewhat rare but severe conditions, such as asthma, sick building syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivity.

More commonly, bad air quality causes symptoms that are sometimes not easy to connect to the air we live and breathe in. For example, continuous sniffle and stuffiness, dry mucous membranes, cough, headaches and fatigue, can all be caused just by poor indoor air quality.

The air we breathe does not only affect us physically, but it is also an important contributor to our mental wellbeing. It is clear without saying, that the aforementioned symptoms affect how well we can function and how we are feeling.

Bad air quality causes symptoms that are sometimes not easy to connect to the air we live and breathe in. 

According to research, up to 15 % of work absences are caused by poor indoor air quality, and some studies say this number is even greater: by improving the indoor air quality, it might be possible to reduce the risk of sick leave by 35 %.

Exposure to ambient air pollution has been linked to how well students perform in their final exams. A statistically significant correlation was found between particulate matter concentration and admission to university. This supports many similar results: for example, measuring cognitive capabilities led to 61–101 % better results in a Harvard University research.

Pollution affects blood circulation, which in turn is important for brains and the nervous system. Exposure affects the structure of the brain and possibly even our memory. In Sweden, researchers found a positive connection with pollution and mental health problems.

Pollution in indoor air can decrease productivity and cause illness and discomfort.

Pollution has indirect effects

Pollution has many indirect effects in addition to direct physiological effects. Discomfort, absence and illness all cause a drop in overall motivation and atmosphere in a workplace. Productivity is also decreased: several studies show that poor indoor air quality decreases it by 6–9 %.

Investing in air quality is beneficial both for the prevention of possible health risks and for the increase in wellbeing. The best possible air makes it easy to feel well physically, psychologically, and socially.

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