Indoor vs Outdoor Air: Exploring the AQI divide

May 19, 2024
2 min read
Indoor vs Outdoor Air: Exploring the AQI divideIndoor vs Outdoor Air: Exploring the AQI divide
Content Writer

How bad is the air we breathe?

Every morning, we flip through our newspapers to find headlines echoing a familiar story. Regardless of where you’re from, the narrative is the same: the quality of air we breathe outside is deteriorating continuously, pushing us into a battleground for cleaner cities and well-being.

Did you know that 6.7 Million premature deaths are attributed to air pollution annually?

new york city air quality index
Raging wildfires in Canada sent smoke plumes miles away, hazing up New York City. AQI beyond 400. Source: Reuters

Integral to the earth's climate and global ecosystem, air quality is influenced by a multitude of factors, such as vehicular emissions, industrial operations, and natural phenomena like wildfires and dust storms.

Air is a mixture of naturally occurring gasses and man-made pollutants. Assessing the presence of these pollutants is essential to understand the concept of air quality.

Common Air Pollutants
Common Air Pollutants

To be considered safe, the air we breathe must have these annual mean concentrations:


Right now, it is anything but. As per global assessments, millions of people, especially in low and middle-income countries, are losing healthy years of life due to air pollution.

Suggested Read: How to Measure PM2.5: Techniques for Accurate Monitoring.

WHO revealed that 99% of the world breathes polluted air much above international safety standards, emphasizing the need for robust and regular air quality monitoring.

So, let us understand how Air Quality is actually monitored.

What is Air Quality Index?

An Air quality index quantifies daily air pollution levels in a location by measuring the density of five key pollutants: ground-level ozone, SO2, CO2, NO, and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).

The US EPA divides AQI into 6 categories ranging from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI, the greater the level of pollution.

US EPA Standards Air Quality Index Chart
US EPA Standards Air Quality Index Chart

A question is asked here. While this index helps us monitor pollution outside, what about the air we breathe when we think we are safe inside our homes?

For decades, outdoor air quality issues have been acknowledged and monitored. However, the challenges of indoor air pollution have only recently entered the conversation.

Where do you breathe better? Indoor vs. Outdoor air quality

Today, we often overlook the fact that we breathe in two different worlds: one sheltered and the other exposed, with varying air quality.

Outdoor air pollution alone is attributed to 4.2 million premature deaths worldwide and is the 2nd leading cause of diseases. The global cost of this menace is approximately USD 5 trillion yearly.

But, were you aware that the concentration of pollutants in enclosed spaces (homes, offices) is often reported to be 2–5 times higher than outdoor levels?

Sources of Air Pollution
Sources of Air Pollution

One of the reasons why most of us aren’t able to realize the threat of indoor pollution is that both indoor and outdoor air pollution primarily comes from different sources.

Human activities such as traffic, factories, and energy production, as well as natural phenomena like wildfires, contribute to outdoor pollution.

One of the reasons why most of us aren’t able to realize the threat of indoor pollution is that both indoor and outdoor air pollution primarily comes from different sources.

  • Human activities such as traffic, factories, and energy production, as well as natural phenomena like wildfires, contribute to outdoor pollution.

    Whereas indoor pollutants come from combustion (cooking and smoking), cleaning agents, and building materials.

  • Ventilating systems’ effectiveness, heating and cooling systems, and contaminants like dust, pollen, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and even outdoor pollutants influence IAQ.

Various studies have unequivocally linked the growing burden of disease, including respiratory diseases, cardiac complications, and even cognitive impairment, to air pollution.

Even within our homes, when we are exposed to polluted air, it worsens headaches, fatigue, asthma, and allergies, ultimately reducing our quality of life.

  • The US EPA says Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors.

What’s even more alarming is the fact that exposure to indoor air pollution now extends beyond respiratory and cardiovascular diseases to cognitive decline and even mental health issues. In fact, a study claims that it reduces life expectancy worldwide.

This is why indoor air quality monitoring deserves a lot of attention.

While outdoor air quality is monitored at stations equipped with various sensors and instruments, indoor air quality measurement can be more personalized with smart devices like Ambee’s sensors. Understanding and improving IAQ hinges on the ability to identify and eliminate the source of pollution.

With 8 billion people on Earth, access to clean technologies is a distant dream, making it vital to understand that subpar air quality has far-reaching outcomes.

To mitigate this, we are constantly innovating with our Air Quality API.

Ambee’s data has brought tangible benefits to many companies. While Brigade Group improved IAQ, enhancing their employee productivity and workplace wellness, Juli increased its customer engagement by enabling the users to manage their physical and mental health better.

How can Ambee lead you to a healthier, smarter future?

The world embraced the significance of air quality measurement due to its profound impacts on human health and the global ecosystem. The post-pandemic shift to remote work and surge in smart homes have amplified awareness about creating ideal ambient conditions. This is fueling the demand for cutting-edge technology like Ambee to enhance comfort and productivity.

Beyond comfort, accurate air quality data is a powerful energy-saving tool. Supporting this notion, studies indicate that smart homes with automatic energy management can reduce emissions by up to 13%, and if smart thermostats are installed in every home by 2026, they can cut 9% of annual HVAC energy usage.

Intrigued? Our whitepaper delves deeper into the role of Ambee's air quality API in the journey toward smart homes and its potential to improve AQ, reduce emissions, and foster a healthier future.

Ambee empowers you to reshape your business with air quality and pollen data. Not only will this improve AQ, but it will also help you make substantial strides in energy conservation.

Get in touch to unlock the technological advancement today.

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