With the president extending social distancing guidelines for the coronavirus through the end of April, and data showing a lot of states may not see their peak of COVID-19 cases until May, it’s safe to say we’ll be continuing to spend a lot of time at home.
And while you are likely disinfecting surfaces regularly, you might be forgetting to clean a critical part of your home: the air.
If you’ve been working from home and getting sudden urges to go outside for fresh air, your body is telling you something, according to Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program and a professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“This pandemic has really forced us all to think a little differently about where we spend the majority of our time,” he said. “With people following strict stay-at-home guidance, people are probably looking around their home a bit differently.”
Improving the quality of your home’s indoor air ― which can be full of pollutants, emissions and germs ― is beneficial for many reasons and important, pandemic or no pandemic. But it’s perhaps even more critical to clear the air, so to speak, during the COVID-19 crisis.
Why Your Home’s Air Quality Matters
Just because you are inside, that doesn’t mean you are protected from air pollutants.
“Right off the bat, it’s important to know that indoor air quality is not necessarily better than outdoor,” said Jane Clougherty, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “The air quality can be complicated by traffic and industry nearby that comes inside through leaks in the home, as well as burning candles or incense, cooking on stove tops and more.”
Volatile organic compounds, called VOCs for short, are also emissions that may be lurking in your home. Common liquid and solid household products will give off these VOC gases,...