A study published by the University of Chicago this week claims air pollution is more dangerous than smoking or drinking alcohol.
The Air Quality Life Index report by the university's Energy Policy Institute labelled fine particulate air pollution – which comes from industrial emissions or wildfires – as the “greatest external threat to public health”. Fine particulate matter is linked to lung disease, heart disease, strokes and cancer.
The study said that reducing these pollutants to meet the World Health Organisation's standards would add 2.3 years to average life expectancy. In comparison, tobacco slashes 2.2 years off global life expectancy, while child and maternal malnutrition reduces it by 1.6 years.
Although an institutional effort is crucial to address air pollution, here are some ways in which residents can improve air quality in their homes and combat imminent health hazards.
Plants not only have aesthetic value, but can also help improve indoor air quality. Some varieties do this better than others, including bamboo palms, rubber plants, dracaena, peace lilies, snake plants, English ivy and Chinese evergreen, according to healthline.com.
Regular house cleaning is important to dust away hazardous particles. Also clear away clutter, as this can trap and hold dust particles. Vacuum carpets, rugs and upholstery once or twice a week, with a vacuum cleaner that has a Hepa filter.
Regularly wipe down AC vents, mop wood, tile and marble floors daily, and try to dry bedding and cushion covers in direct sunlight.
“Check for wallpapers that could obscure mould, and carefully inspect used furniture for the same," says Dr Beena Thomas, a pulmonologist at Aster Day Surgery Centre in Mankhool, Dubai.
Improve the air quality in your space by investing in an air purifier. Look for an option with a high CADR (clean air delivery rate) – the higher the number, the faster it will filter the air. Seek assistance from a technician as there are different types and sizes of purifiers suitable to specific areas. Some brands to consider include Dyson, Coway Xiaomi and Levoit.
Dr Thomas also advises avoiding smoking cigarettes, shisha or vapes in enclosed spaces.
Opt for beeswax candles, which have air-purifying qualities, as they release negative ions while they burn. They are also 100 per cent natural and will keep your home smelling great.
Dead skin cells shed by our four-legged friends are another common culprit when it comes to indoor air pollution, so make sure you are washing and brushing your pets regularly. Dr Thomas adds: “For households with pets, immediately dispose of animal excrement.”