Indoor air quality becomes more critical as people stay indoors longer, particularly children and the elderly who are vulnerable to air pollution. Natural ventilation has been recognized as the most economical and effective means of improving indoor air quality, but its benefit is questionable when the external air quality is unacceptable. Such risk-risk tradeoffs would require evidence-based guidelines for households and policymakers, but there is a lack of research that examines spatiotemporal long-term air quality trends, leaving us unclear on when to ventilate. This study aims to suggest the appropriate time for ventilation by analyzing the hourly and quarterly concentrations of particulate matter (PM)10 and PM2.5 in seven metropolitan cities and Jeju island in South Korea from January 2015 to September 2019. Both areas' PM levels decreased until 2018 and rebounded in 2019 but are consistently higher in spring and winter. Overall, the average concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 peaked in the morning, declined in the afternoon, and rebounded in the evening, but the second peak was more pronounced for PM2.5. This study may suggest ventilation in the afternoon (2-6pm) instead of the morning or late evening, but substantial differences across the regions by season encourage intervention strategies tailored to regional characteristics.
Keywords: indoor air quality; natural ventilation; particulate matter; regional variation.