Quality of indoor air plummeted in some homes during COVID-19 shutdown

Environmental sensors placed in Miami- and Baltimore-area homes by University of Miami public health researcher Naresh Kumar recorded elevated levels of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other harmful substances during a two-month, stay-at-home period.

July 14, 2020—Robert C. Jones Jr., University of Miami News

When the nation’s governors imposed shelter-in-place orders in their states earlier this year in hopes of reining in surging cases of COVID-19, Naresh Kumar, a University of Miami public health scientist who studies the environmental burden of disease, knew that the special sensors he had placed in more than 30 residential homes in Miami and the city of Baltimore would eventually have a story to tell.

Now, as most states have started to lift restrictions and reopen their economies, those sensors are telling that story. During a two-month period from April through May, when residents spent the majority of their time indoors complying with COVID-19 lockdown orders, levels of harmful substances in those homes increased dramatically, degrading the quality of indoor air.

And shutdown directives imposed to curtail the coronavirus were the cause of those spikes, said Kumar, an associate professor of environmental health at the Miller School of Medicine.

While his findings are still preliminary, the numbers he has downloaded from his environmental sensors are nonetheless startling. Amounts of fine particulate pollution, which is also known as PM2.5 because the particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, rose by 30% over that two-month span. Meanwhile, concentrations of ammonia, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide climbed by 2.7%, 15%, and 4%, respectively. “But it’s what people did inside their residences during stay-at-home orders that contributed to those increases,” Kumar said. Read More.

Source: University of Miami News