With people spending extra time indoors, this guide can help you reduce indoor air pollution and protect workers’ health

by Brianna Crandall — June 15, 2020 — As millions of people around the world are spending more time indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the C40 Cities network of the world’s megacities committed to sustainability has published a guide for citizens, building managers and city leaders to reduce and manage exposure to indoor air pollution. Emerging evidence indicates that people with poor lung health may be at greater risk of complications or death from COVID-19. While outdoor air pollution has decreased in some cities during the pandemic, many people are spending more time inside, so protecting indoor air quality (IAQ) is as important as ever, points out the group.

The guide is intended to help improve indoor air quality both now and in the future, once the current crisis has passed. The recommendations are not intended to replace any local, regional, or national health guidance in the evolving circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The C40 indoor air pollution guide is part of a broader effort by C40 to provide relevant coronavirus-related resources to cities and citizens around the world. The guide provides practical steps that citizens can take in their homes and in private and commercial buildings to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution, both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

The guide explains the various types of indoor air pollution, such as biological contaminants, chemical pollutants, and solid or liquid particles that are small enough to be suspended in the air.

Indoor air pollution at home

As much of your workforce may still be at home, C40 points out these key actions that individuals can take at home:

  • Reduce any burning inside the home (such as incense, candles, and wood fires).
  • Send fumes/smoke outside by using an exhaust fan that vents to the outdoors, or opening a nearby window/door if no fan is available.
  • Minimize the use of home products that can create air pollution such as artificial air fresheners, pesticides, aerosol sprays, adhesives, and harsh cleaning products. These products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air.

Owners and managers of residential, private or commercial buildings

For those who manage residential, private or commercial buildings, the guide outlines specific actions to protect building inhabitants such as increasing ventilation, particularly when using cleaning agents or pesticides and around such office equipment as copiers and printers; ensuring HVAC systems have high-efficiency air filters; placing furniture and partitions with air circulation in mind; converting gas stoves to electric; and using non-chemical pest control methods when possible.

City governments

Finally, the guide explores recommendations for city governments, such as bans on open burning near population centers, and implementing measures in the C40 Clean Air Cities Declaration to reduce outdoor air pollution.

Shannon Lawrence, C40 director of Global Initiatives, stated:

By addressing indoor air pollution, we can help protect our health during the COVID-19 emergency, with the added benefit of reducing the emissions that are driving the climate emergency. We hope this guide will empower individuals to address one aspect of their health that is within their control, as we all work together to fight this global crisis.

Implementation Guide: How to Reduce and Manage Your Exposure to Indoor Air Pollution” (PDF) is available to download free from the C40 Cities website, as are additional information and resources related to COVID-19.