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When I ride my bike through London traffic, I always worry about the dirty air I’m breathing. It’s a relief to be back inside, where the air is sweet and you can imagine it’s better for me. But this proves to be a false sense of security.

“People do not imagine that there is pollution inside the house; It is perceived as a protective space,” says Corinne Mandin in France Scientific and Technical Building Center, “But there are more pollutants in buildings than in the outside air.”

Thanks in no small part to Covid-19, which focused attention on air quality and ventilation of enclosed spaces, the long-neglected issue of indoor pollution is finally being taken seriously. Deadly seriously, in fact, as scientists find that the pollutants we encounter in our homes, workplaces and schools are probably a leading cause of illness and death. Certainly in places where solid fuel or kerosene (paraffin) is used for cooking, Air quality-related deaths number in the millionsHence the possibility of damage elsewhere.

Last year, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a weighty tome on the subject, which explained the huge gaps in our knowledge and said that filling them was a national priority. Other countries are doing the same, Mandin says. “Indoor air pollution is on the rise.”

As this research gathers pace, and the true scale of the problem emerges, it is tempting to conclude that there is nowhere left safe to breathe. But the good news is that all of us can reduce our exposure to indoor pollution by making some simple changes.

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