July 15, 2020
Long-term exposure to high concentrations of fine dust – specifically a size of particulate matter known as PM2.5 – has been linked to increased COVID-19 mortality rates. This makes minimizing house dust in your home a particularly important step in reducing risk over time.
However, this is easier said than done. Unlike more visible forms of indoor dust that you may find on surfaces in your home, PM2.5 is not detectable by the human eye. PM2.5 can easily travel unseen into your home via open windows on bad air days, or be created by everyday activities inside, such as cooking. Scientists from the American Chemical Society have discovered that over 60% of indoor dust originates from tracked-in soil and outdoor air.
If you can’t prevent PM2.5 from entering your home, why should you minimize its presence – and how?
In the scientific literature, there is a history of high concentrations of dust and/or PM being linked to the prevalence of respiratory illness:
During the COVID-19 outbreak, two wide-scale studies have demonstrated a link between the novel coronavirus and particulate matter.
The studies also proposed that viruses, given a stable atmosphere and high PM concentrations, have a high probability of creating viral clusters. These clusters can reduce the natural diffusion of viruses, instead increasing their lifespan and promoting the spread of contagion.
The science on COVID-19 is still evolving, but we know that “aerosols” – tiny pieces of floating liquid or particles – are one route by which the virus is transmitted. This is the reason masks can help humans; they help minimize the inhalation of aerosols, and (more importantly) capture a portion of outbound aerosols created by breathing, talking, and coughing. This is particularly important when evidence suggests that, when traveling via aerosols, viruses can have a longer lifetime than originally thought.
The reality is that aerosols and dust will always be present in the home. And outdoor air pollution can affect your indoor air, particularly during an air alert day. You can’t seal all your windows and floorboards forever – nor should you, as this can create high CO2 levels! But with proper practices of air filtering and indoor dust control, you can minimize the presence of PM2.5, and thus minimize your risk over time.
This is where a high-quality Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitor like Awair Element can help. Element tracks five factors of indoor air quality, including the PM2.5 levels in your indoor air. High PM2.5 levels can signal for you to turn on air filtering devices, ensure HVAC filters are clean, and/or to open doors and windows (if the outdoor air quality is better than inside).
Knowledge is power; track your indoor air to keep your PM2.5 levels low, and take an easy step towards improving your odds against illnesses such as COVID-19 in the future.
We typically associate allergies with outdoor factors that come with the changing of the season, like pollen from trees and flowering plants. It might seem safe to assume that you can help calm your allergy symptoms after staying indoors for a bit–but what if this isn’t the case?
To better understand the impact unhealthy outdoor air quality has on indoor environments, Awair aggregated data from its indoor air quality (IAQ) monitors during the smoked-filled air days due to fires along the West Coast of the United States.
The Awair AQI Map Beta is a new feature in the Awair Home app that gives you a quick glance at the PM2.5 indoors and the neighborhood time-weighted averages outdoors. In the image below, the number on the top in the larger circle is the average outdoor AQI in your area. The smaller number represents the neighborhood average indoor air quality in the same area.