Today, more than ever, air quality is a crucial element not only in managing existing residential and office spaces but also in the planning and designing of properties for development in the new normal.
To help illustrate the relevance of air quality in our lives—indoors and outdoors alike—we’ve gathered 20+ air quality statistics that every professional needs to know in 2021, plus some key takeaways to help guide your air quality monitoring efforts. Let’s dive in!
Air pollution is more widespread and costly than you think - but small, individual changes can lead to big progress.
- Air pollution is the fourth-largest threat to human health, behind high blood pressure, dietary risks, and smoking.
- Air pollution led to 1 in 10 deaths in 2013, which cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income.
- The Clean Air Act is a major success story in the realm of air pollution policy making. In terms of cost-benefit analysis, the Clean Air Act has saved the USA’s economy over $2 trillion and will prevent an estimated 230,000 premature deaths in 2020.
- Switching to cycling, walking, and public transport are some of the best changes an individual can make to reduce local air pollution and congestion. In cities, where trips tend to be shorter, it’s easier to take up cycling as a daily mode of transport that generates zero air pollution.
Air pollution is worse indoors than outdoors, and everyday household & office items can be a major culprit.
- Indoor spaces can be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outside from the buildup of formaldehyde from a wide range of items, including new textiles such as carpets, paint, glue, and cleaning products in residential buildings and asbestos, lead, and radon in commercial buildings.
- Fine pollution particles (PM2.5) can pass through the lungs and be carried via the bloodstream to virtually all cells in the body. Particles that enter the bloodstream have been associated with conditions like stroke and depression and may increase your risk of heart disease or dementia by nearly 5%.
- Over 20% of the general U.S. population report adverse health effects from air fresheners which can contain toxic chemicals known as phthalates that disrupt hormonal function, interrupt reproductive development, and aggravate respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
- A study of commercial workplaces found that the main VOC sources in offices included photocopiers, printers, furniture, cleaning products, wall and floor coverings, and that emissions were 10 to 120 times higher when the computers were “on” than “off”.
Unhealthy buildings are NOT a thing of the past, and come with serious consequences.
- 1 out of 6 Europeans – or roughly the equivalent of Germany’s population – reports living in unhealthy buildings, i.e., buildings that have damp conditions (leaking roof or damp floor, walls or foundation), a lack of daylight, inadequate heating during the winter, poor indoor quality or overheating problems.
- In a survey of 100 U.S. office buildings, 23% of office workers experienced frequent symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) such as respiratory ailments, allergies and asthma.
- Occupants in buildings that are kept within the
range of optimal temperature and humidityperform 5.4% better in cognitive tests than their counterparts with sub-optimal levels of temperature and humidity.
- Green buildings achieving the LEED certification in the US and other countries have been shown to consume 25% less energy and 11% less water, than non-green buildings.
- In a review of buildings that were certified to green and healthier standards, it was found that these buildings received 30% fewer complaints from occupants about problems with air quality, temperature, and other issues—suggesting that design standards have true impact.
- Using a CO2 based demand controlled ventilation (DCV) can save up to 80% in energy savings in commercial buildings.
Air pollution exacerbates risk of COVID-19 , and some safety measures might do more harm than good.
- European Society of Cardiology estimates that about 15% of deaths worldwide from COVID-19 could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution. In Europe, the proportion was about 19%, in North America it was 17%, and in East Asia about 27%.
- A preliminary study detected SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) could be hitching a ride on PM10 particles – similar to PM2.5, just slightly larger, suggesting that the virus could be dispersed more widely on air pollution particles.
- While new COVID-19 protocols emphasize the need for cleaning and sanitization to minimize the risk to the COVID-19 virus, excessive sanitization can cause TVOC concentration to exceed the maximum acceptable concentration of 300 – 500 ppb by 9900%.
Wildfires are a growing health and environmental threat that know no borders.
- 15 of California’s 20 worst fires have occurred in the past 20 years, and we can expect these numbers to grow as climate change, poor forest management practices, and residential development deeper into flammable landscapes continue to prevail.
- A recent study on the 2011 U.S. wildfires found that wildfire smoke in areas with medium and high density smoke affected an even larger portion of the country than wildfires themselves. In fact, the number of areas affected by medium- or high-density smoke for 12-47 days were, in total, nearly 50 times greater than the areas burned directly by fire.
- During the 2020 wildfires, on average, PM2.5 concentrations increased by 91.7 μg/m3. Each week of wildfire smoke exposures was estimated to result in 87.6 cases of increased all-cause mortality, 19.1 increased cardiovascular disease deaths, and 9.4 increased respiratory disease deaths.
- By September of the same year, fire-related emissions in 2020 were already 3 times higher than the historical 21st-century average in California, Oregon and Washington.
With these stats, you can see why air quality should be made a top priority at home and in the workplace. Want to dive deeper into the topic? Get started with our mini crash-course on how to choose a commercial air quality monitor!