Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) deals with the nature of conditioned air that circulates or flows everywhere in the space, area, or room where we work and live, particularly the air we breathe during most of our lives. Indoor air quality is a crucial issue because most people spend about 90% of their time indoors, either at home, work, or school.
Facts on Indoor Air Quality:
Research conducted by different agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has revealed that the amount indoor levels of many pollutants are 2-5 times higher, and some times, 100 times higher than outdoor levels. A survey conducted by the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) revealed that one-third of the 70 million Americans who work indoors are placed in buildings that are developing or breeding grounds for contamination of molds, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds like formaldehyde.
Poor indoor air quality is generated by many factors like poor ventilation, poor cleaning, heating, air-conditioning (HVAC) system and more emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). An important cause of poor indoor air quality is a lack of fresh air inside the area/space and due to lack of proper exchange of air between the outside and inside, which can result in excessive humidity.
Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality or Indoor Air Pollution:
- Biological or organic pollutants like mold and pollen
- Tobacco smoke
- Household domestic products and pesticides
- Hazardous gases such as radon and carbon monoxide
- Materials used in the construction of buildings such as asbestos, formaldehyde
Negative effects of poor Indoor Air Quality:
Indoor air quality can influence people’s health and produces economic and legal problems.
- Pollutants may contribute to short-term and long-term health problems, like asthma, respiratory tract infections, allergic reactions, headaches, congestion, eye and skin irritations, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, dizziness and nausea.
- Indoor air pollutants can cause uneasiness or discomfort, and reduces attendance and productivity. Recent data conveyed that poor IAQ could reduce a person’s skill to complete particular mental tasks requiring concentration, calculation, or memory.
- Indoor air pollutants accelerate building degradation. For example, uncontrolled moisture can result in mold growth of mold or fungi that leads to the architectural decay of building components.
- Poor indoor air quality causes stress in relationships among employees, family members, parents, teachers, students, and school administrations.
- Indoor air quality problems can also lead to liability issues, lawsuits, or disputes.
Methods used to improve Indoor Air Quality:
Mechanical ventilation such as a fan or dehumidifier may be required in parts of the home that are particularly wet.
Simple Steps to improve Indoor Air Quality in Home:
- Regulate the humidity and allow more air into home by confirming sufficient ventilation. This will prevent building up of moisture on walls and windows. If there is a lot of water vapor, mechanical ventilation like a fan may be required to get rid of it.
- Measure humidity by using a hygrometer (a reasonable tool available in hardware stores), to see if de-humidifier is required. The relative humidity in home should be below 50% in summer and 30% in winter.
- Repair leaky or faulty roofs, walls, and basements.
- Clean moldy or wet surfaces with a detergent.
- Home should be clean and dust-free.
- Regularly clean and sterilize humidifiers, de-humidifiers, and air conditioners.
Steps to Improve the Indoor Air Quality in Office:
- Air vents or grills should not be blocked.
- Office and building smoking policy should be obeyed.
- Water and office plants should be maintained properly.
- Garbage should be disposed quickly and properly.
- Food should be stored properly.
- Products that could release harmful or troubling odors or contaminants into the building should be avoided.
- If indoor air quality problem is suspected, building or facility manager should be informed immediately.
Determination of IAQ comprises of the collection of air samples, supervising human exposure to pollutants, collection of samples on building surfaces and computer modeling of flow of air inside buildings.
The EPA ranks indoor air as one of the top five environmental dangers to human health. Many factors may lead to unhealthy air at home or workplace like lack of ventilation, excessive humidity, and water infiltration or leakage. Poor indoor air quality can lead to number of health problems like breathing difficulties and allergies. So, beware of it and keep your indoor surroundings clean.
Reproduced with permission from Living-smartly.com.