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Lockdown led to an increase in indoor air pollution

Indoor air quality worsened in the UK, Europe and the US over lockdown, according to a new study conducted by Airthings. 

In order to understand the impact that home-working and lockdown had on air pollution, the analysts looked into trends of CO2 levels during typical working hours.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is harmless in small quantities, but a build-up of CO2 indoors can lead to low productivity and decreased cognitive ability.

Analysts looked into CO2 trends during typical working hours in order to understand how working from home has affected indoor air quality.

The researchers found that in both Europe and the US, there was a noticeable spike in indoor CO2 levels in March when the lockdowns began and another steady rise in autumn when many countries went into a second lockdown.

In the UK, indoor CO2 levels rose by over 25% when the second national lockdown went into place at the beginning of November.

person using black and silver laptop computer

The researchers also looked at trends in volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are a combination of gases and odours emitted from many different toxins and chemicals from everyday products such as cooking and cleaning fumes, paint and new furniture.

In the short term, VOCs can cause headache and eye, nose and throat irritations. In the long term, exposure to high levels of VOCs can lead to damage to the liver and kidneys.

The researchers found that in Germany by the end of the year, the average level of VOCs had increased by nearly 7% since March. The UK also followed a similar trend, with several peaks.

Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings said: ‘UK children on average spend 35 hours per week at school and they are one of the most sensitive groups in regards to air pollution. That’s why we are excited to join forces with Evotech on Clean Air Day to monitor and improve air quality in schools across the UK and raise awareness about the effects of poor indoor air.’

Photo by Daniel Thomas

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