20 000 breaths a day
Every day, the average person takes roughly 20 000 breaths. Nine out of ten people globally breathe polluted air. And, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the single greatest environmental health threat in the world.
of people globally breathe polluted air, according to WHO*
million litres of air – approx. how much we breathe in a lifetime**
* World Health Organization (2018). 9 out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air, but more countries are taking action.
** UN Environment Programme (2017). Commemorating Smog Day.
Awareness is the first step
As a part of the IKEA Clean Air Survey, people from around the world shared their views on air pollution. They were also given a portable pollution sensor to use in their everyday life. The participants were surprised by the pollution levels in their neighbourhoods and their homes.
“Many people take for granted that they are breathing clean air at home. We know that people are spending more time at home, particularly in the past year and a half, so it’s really crucial that in their space there’s clean air,” says Alexandra Galef.
An important first step is learning more about potential sources of air pollution.
Opening your windows to ventilate at times when outdoor air pollution is lower, using exhaust hoods when cooking, and keeping your home free from dust and mould can help improve your indoor air quality.
Getting to know the indoor pollutants
The most harmful indoor pollutant is particulate matter (PM), also known as particle pollution. But what is it? Particulate matter is small particles in the air, such as dust or emissions from cooking and heating with solid fuels like wood. The smallest particles can pass through the body’s defences and affect the heart, brain and lungs. Studies have shown that exposure to particle pollution can cause several serious problems, such as coughing, difficulty breathing, decreased lung function or aggravated asthma.
Other common indoor pollutants are gases, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, that can irritate the lungs and even be fatal in high concentrations. They are released from, for instance, stoves, smoking and open fires. Another common indoor air pollutant is volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can be found in everyday household products, such as (1) paint, (2) hairspray, (3) fabric softeners, (4) and cleaning products. VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness and eye and respiratory irritation.
Small changes for better air at home
While there is no single solution to improving indoor air, there are several easy measures we all can take to improve indoor air quality. One of the first steps is becoming aware of the most common pollutants and where they come from. This includes analysing areas in your home and potentially harmful pollutants you have or might release through your activities.
- Household goods and products: Look for low or non-emitting alternatives when shopping.
- Cleaning: Try keeping your home free of dust and mould.
- Cooking: Using the extractor hood during and after cooking.
- Change your routines: Small changes, like smoking outdoors or airing out your home at night when outdoor pollution generally is lower, can make a difference.
- Clean air tools/air purifiers: Affordable solutions can help you monitor and improve the air quality in your home.
Since we began developing these products, I have measured my own indoor air and noticed that many activities, like cooking and cleaning, have a greater impact on indoor air quality than I’d expected.
What we are doing to improve indoor air
We think everyone should have access to cleaner air. That’s why we are committed to helping people become more aware of the problem and encouraging them to join us in taking steps to make clean air for everyone a reality.
“More and more people are trying to find new ways to live a better everyday life and making sure they take care of themselves and their families. Breathing clean air is one important factor,” says Alexandra Galef, Sustainability Development Leader at IKEA of Sweden.
The IKEA business is also taking action to help reduce air pollution by actively reducing air pollutants from the value chain.
“Transitioning to renewable electricity and replacing fossil fuels with cleaner fuels can have a huge impact on the climate and reduce air pollution. There are so many opportunities for us to make a positive impact for a world of cleaner air,” she adds.
Developing affordable and high performing solutions to help people purify the air in their homes is another step in the journey, starting with the launch of FÖRNUFTIG air purifier and VINDRIKTNING air quality sensor.
“The tricky part is that you can’t see bad air. You can see dust, hair and pollen, but the smallest and most harmful particles can’t be seen by the naked eye. The key is being aware of things you do and how they can affect indoor air. Using an air purifier can help to minimise the risk of breathing polluted air,” says Henrik Telander, Product Developer and Product Owner at IKEA of Sweden.
There is no a simple solution to the problem of indoor air pollution, but it’s important that we take the steps we can to improve air quality and help make cleaner air available to the many people.
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