Tackling the invisible threat to our homes

Farhat Ahmed

From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of outdoor and household air pollution cause about 7 million premature deaths every year worldwide, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and acute respiratory infections. 

According to a new study released in March 2019, Dhaka has emerged as the second most polluted capital city in the world. Such findings are not something new for Dhaka. According to a World Bank report titled ‘Bangla­desh Environmental Analysis-2018’, about 80,000 people in Dhaka lose their lives every year to air pollution. An estimated 28 percent of all deaths in Bangladesh are from diseases caused by pollution, compared to a 16 percent global average.

We know outdoor air is toxic but does it mean that indoor air is less toxic than outdoor? The answer is no. Researchers have found that indoor air pollution is often between 2 – 5 times greater than outdoors and can get at its extreme up to 100 times worse than the 

open air. 

Indoor air contains every pollutant we have outside, plus whatever we are adding inside a building, like - fumes from cleaning products and building materials; fuels and technology used for cooking, heating, lighting and many more. Children are particularly vulnerable as their lungs are still in development stage and they are more physically active. 

Moreover, winter is coming. During winter, we tend to keep our windows and doors closed so that the cold air cannot enter our living spaces. However, there is a downside of this as it decreases the indoor air quality. When contaminants cannot escape your home, they gather and multiply quickly. These include bacteria, viruses, mold spores and dust mites that can easily make you sick, especially if you don’t have a strong immune system. 

Researchers have found that indoor air pollution

 is often between 2 – 5 times greater than 

outdoors and can get at its extreme

 up to 100 times worse than the open air

However, compared to outdoor air pollution, indoor air pollution is easily manageable provided the indoor environment is kept clean and free of the polluting substances. Usually, the most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their  emissions.

Some sources, like those that contain asbestos, can be sealed or enclosed; others, like gas stoves, can be adjusted to decrease the number of emissions. It is recommended to ensure that the entire house, office or the car is properly ventilated. 

Additionally, cleaning and dusting should be thorough as dust carry bacteria which can cause various illnesses.  

Another approach is to install an air purifier. An air purifier can help you to keep your living space clean and trap airborne spores in its filters to prevent them from sticking to walls and reproducing. The air purifiers can work quickly to help remove airborne particles from the air without allowing them to reenter the room and relieve allergies quickly. 

Running the air purifier near the front door of the office or home will help the device to catch allergens at the door and prevent them from circulating throughout the 

living space.

There are numerous air purifiers out there but selecting a good quality air purifier is the key to improved indoor air quality. The best quality air purifiers are quiet and will remove about 99% of airborne particles. 

Some air purifiers use good filters and all these air purifiers effectively remove tobacco smoke, traffic pollution, fumes, chemicals and odors. 

Others also remove pollutants such as allergens, pollens, mold spores, dust and pet dander. These purifiers are the ideal companion particularly for anyone who suffers from chemical sensitivity or 

wants protection from smoke and 


Exposure to outdoor air pollution is simply unavoidable. However, we can still control the risk to indoor air pollution. It is important to take as many steps as possible to decrease the level of indoor air pollution as people spend more time there than outdoor. This way we can ensure a healthy lifestyle and avoid 

getting sick. 

Farhat Ahmed is an Environment Specialist based in Bangladesh