The Impact of Indoor Air Quality on Physical and Mental Health

By Brittany Cotton

The evidence has never been clearer that poor indoor air quality can pose a serious threat to our overall health. According to the EPA, pollutant concentrations may be up to five times higher in our homes than outdoors. Things like nitrogen dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and radon can all be lurking around indoors without us ever knowing. These chemical compounds can all cause negative health outcomes with too much exposure.

Considering this, it’s important to note how many people have shifted to a more indoor-centric lifestyle since 2020. It’s not uncommon for many of us to spend the large majority of our days inside. Even being exposed to something as benign as dust for that long can cause serious health problems.

All this extra time spent indoors can increase our exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals residing in our homes. Daly activities we often don’t think much about can contribute to this exposure, like cooking and burning candles. We actively contribute to poor air quality in our homes regularly without realizing it.

Many aspects of our health can be affected by exposure to poor indoor air quality over time. Some of the outcomes associated with poor indoor air quality exposure are mild, but some potential outcomes are life-threatening.


What Issues Can Bad Indoor Air Quality Cause on Your Overall Health?

Our indoor environments affect a wide range of our physical and mental functions. Good indoor air quality can result in being more productive and experiencing improved cognitive ability. Poor indoor air quality can sometimes have the opposite effect, causing fatigue and brain fog. It can cause many more serious physical and mental problems as well.

One of the most obvious problems poor indoor air quality can cause is respiratory issues, such as asthma or chronic bronchitis. These issues can be mild, or they can be serious enough to require a hospital visit in some cases.

A mild cough isn’t generally that serious, but exposure to bad air quality over time can cause much more life-threatening situations. Poor indoor air quality has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Some of the effects of being exposed to poor air quality won’t be things you notice physically. Even short exposure to bad air quality can cause depression to set in. Experiences of intense sadness, stress, and even suicidal thoughts have been attributed in part to over-exposure to poor indoor air quality.

There have also been studies asserting that poor indoor air quality may contribute to childhood mental health conditions, such as attention disorders and anxiety. Left untreated, these conditions can permanently alter cognitive functions in those affected.


How to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

There could be many different reasons why the air quality in your home isn’t as clean as it could be. Sometimes it’s something as simple as neglecting to get your ducts professionally cleaned for a while. Other times the source of poor air quality may not even be in your house.

When it comes to seasonal allergies, which are usually caused by pollen from flowers and other plants during the spring and summer, the goal is to simply keep them from entering your home. Having air filters cleaned and working to full efficiency is a good way to keep seasonal allergens at bay, as well as maintaining a regular cleaning routine in your home during those months.

Depending on the kind of poor indoor air quality you’re experiencing, you may need a more creative solution to keeping your home’s air fresh and clean. For more ideas on maintaining your home’s indoor air quality, check out these in-depth solutions.

As we spend more and more time indoors these days, it’s important to be mindful of what we’re breathing in every day. That mildly annoying smell you can’t seem to find the source of may be doing more harm than you think. By maintaining clean air quality in your home, you’ll also be caring for the physical and mental well-being of your family.

Brittany Cotton is a writer who focuses on health, wellness, and a variety of other topics. In her free time, you can find her reading, trying new recipes, or playing with her dog.

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