Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air within a structure or building that has been occupied for a specified amount of time by people having varying states of health. Such a building or structure may include residences, hospitals, transport facilities, office etc. The Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is defined as the quality of atmosphere or air that pertains to the comfort and health of the occupants – total attributes of air quality that affects a person’s well-being and health.
It’s crucial to understand and control the common indoor pollutants that can help reduce any sort of health concerns.
Evaluating Health Risks
People may be exposed to indoor air pollutants in both public and private environments. In a building, some indoor pollutants may originate from outside. However, most are released within the building. For example – burning fuel for heating and cooking, cleaning etc. Even construction materials and furniture can emit harmful pollutants, due to lack of ventilation or dampness.
An important point that must be considered here is that – indoor environment does not have any typical interpretation. This conundrum arises from the fact that indoor air is comprised of a varied mixture of pollutants which makes it extremely difficult to assess the risks associated with them.
So, let’s delve into the intricacies of the major factors affecting indoor air quality along with its immediate and long-term effects.
Main Factors Affecting Indoor Air Quality
One of the major concerns with indoor air quality is the usage of unflued gas heaters or gas cookers, which contribute a major quantity of pollutants in domestic environments. Indoor air quality can also be adversely affected due to the following reasons:
- There are certain chemicals released from household appliances that affect and irritate the human eye, throat and nose. Also, there are numerous chemicals that are regularly used but information regarding their long-term effects on health are not available.
- Radon is another very common example of a radioactive gas that is prevalent in the atmosphere and may have harmful effects on the human respiratory system, leading to lung cancer. Also, air toxins like formaldehyde also have adverse effects on indoor air quality.
- Microbial contamination, such as viruses and molds can lead to harmful allergies and asthma.
- Pests like mice, cockroaches, house dust mites and domestic pets are a high source of allergens.
- Humidity is another important factor. While dust mites and molds are more prevalent in high-humid conditions, lows humidity fosters rashes, dry nose and skin, and irritation in the eye.
- If the indoor temperature is extreme – either too high or too low, it can be unhealthy and have unpleasant effects.
- Lack of sufficient ventilation highly affects work performance and health and is a crucial factor when it comes to indoor air quality.
Factors to Consider for Improving Air Quality
Mold is a form of fungus and quickly grows in humid, warm, and moist environments. It can be typically found in areas where leakages and seepage of water have occurred. Surfaces around windows where there is a condensation build-up, wet cellulose materials like paper and wood products, as well as upholstery and insulation materials are thriving points for mold growth. Exposure to mold can lead to wheezing, coughing, irritation of the eye, throat, and skin as well as nasal stiffness.
To get rid of mold growth in your property, click here.
Asbestos is a silicate mineral that constitutes tiny fibers. If disturbed, it produces a dust of asbestos fibers, inhaling which can cause various health issues such as asbestosis, pleural plaques, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Due to their useful properties such as thermal and chemical stability, good tensile strength, and thermal insulation, asbestos was earlier commonly used in building materials. If your property was founded before the 1980s, it was probably built with certain asbestos-containing materials. Undertaking a renovation project on your own can cause exposure to asbestos. Indoor asbestos-containing products include textured paint on walls and ceilings, vinyl floor tiles as well as hot water and steam pipes.
To test and prevent asbestos exposure in your property, click here.
Asthma is a grave respiratory disease. It causes difficulty in breathing, which in turn, hampers normal bodily functions including walking and interaction. Other than outdoor air pollutants such as pollen, asthma is caused by indoor irritants like dust and smoke. In fact, up to 90% of their time is spent indoors by Americans. If the air is unclean, indoor irritants and allergens can play a key role in triggering asthma attacks. Environmental asthma triggers can be removed by regular cleanup of the premises, fixing water leaks and clearing mold, washing bedspreads and blankets weekly in hot water, prevention of indoor smoking, sealing cracks and crevices to control pests, and using allergen-proof mattresses and pillow covers.
To prevent the incidence of asthma in your property, click here.
4. Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke comprises a mixture of the smoke emitted by the burning of tobacco products such as cigars, cigarettes, and pipes as well as smoke that is exhaled by smokers. Exposure to secondhand smoke is commonly known as passive or involuntary smoking. Generally, there are more than 7,000 substances in secondhand smoke, many of which can cause cancer in animals or humans. According to the EPA, about 3,000 lung cancer deaths occur every year from exposure to secondhand smoke. It has also been observed that secondhand smoke increases the risk of stroke and heart disease.
To free your home from secondhand smoke, click here.
Radon gas typically enters your home through openings and cracks on the floor and walls that are in contact with the ground. It cannot be either seen or smelt. It can hamper the indoor air quality to a great extent. When you breathe in radon, it reaches the lining of your lungs and causes radiation. Over a long period, this leads to cell damage and consequently, lung cancer. Unlike other poisonous gases, radon does not show any obvious symptoms. Instead, a disease as severe as lung cancer can surface after many years. To ensure the removal of radon, you can include radon-mitigating features in your home or consult certified radon reduction specialists.
To remove the presence of radon, click here.
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs are chemicals that easily evaporate in the air. They are generally present in most cleaners, paints, varnishes, adhesives, and other products used for the remodeling and maintenance of properties. The health effects of VOCs vary greatly depending on the concentration and kind of chemical in the air, duration of time an individual is exposed to the chemical as well as their age, susceptibility, and pre-existing medical conditions. The common symptoms are dizziness, headaches, eye and throat or lung irritation, and problems in vision.
To rid your property of VOCs, click here.
7. Carbon Monoxide & Nitrogen Dioxide
Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are poisonous gases that can cause health hazards. While carbon monoxide causes dizziness, headaches, disorientation, fatigue, and nausea, high levels can be fatal. Nitrogen dioxide leads to irritation of throat, nose, and eyes. It also intensifies respiratory infections and hampers lung function. The sources include gas stoves, gas space and unvented kerosene heaters, furnaces, leaking chimneys, and tobacco products. Sometimes, significant warning symptoms may be missing, which can make the situation more dangerous.
To rid your property of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, click ______.
Formaldehyde, at room temperature, is a colorless and flammable gas. It belongs to the group volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and has a strong and pungent smell. Formaldehyde is widely used in home furnishings. It is found in resins used for manufacturing composite wood products like hardwood plywood and medium-density fiberboard, building materials, household products like glues, paints, lacquers, and finishes, as well as preservatives present in certain medicines, cosmetics and dishwashing liquids. The adverse health effects can be irritation of the nose, throat, skin, and eyes. High levels of exposure can also lead to cancer. The concentration of formaldehyde is generally much higher indoors than outdoors.
To rid your property of VOCs, click here.
Some harmful effects are shortly visible, even after single or repeated exposure to the pollutant. The most common symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, headaches along with irritation in throat, nose and eye. These effects mainly persist for a short span of time and can be treated easily. Sometimes identifying the source of such pollution and eliminating the avenue of exposure to the element is the easiest way of treating it. However, some pollutants may also lead to symptoms of asthma, simply aggravating them.
The probability of such immediate reactions depends on various factors, including pre-existing medical state and age. In some instances, it depends on the individual sensitivity, which may highly vary from individual to individual. Also, some people may develop such biological sensitivity after repeated exposures to such air pollutants.
The most important factor in figuring out the symptoms is to pay close attention to the time and place of occurrence. If certain symptoms are prevalent in certain areas, an added effort should be made to identify such indoor places.
Long-term effects may become visible after a prolonged period of time, and only after repeated period of exposure to such harmful pollutants. These effects may lead to severely fatal or debilitating conditions – heart diseases, cancer and other respiratory illness. If any such conditions are vaguely noticeable, it is prudent to improve your indoor air quality in such immediately.
Suggestions for Improving Indoor Air Quality
- Ensure proper ventilation at your home. Make sure to open your doors and windows regularly to increase the amount of fresh air coming indoors. You can also use fans and air conditioners to exhaust harmful air outside.
- Regularly change the filters of heaters and air conditioners. Make sure to follow relevant manufacturer recommendations while doing so. Don’t hesitate to take professional help.
- Adjust your humidity level accordingly. We suggest following your relevant state or national norms or adhering to professional agencies who are better equipped to handle such situations.
Considerable amount of uncertainty still persists about the specific concentrations of exposure that lead to such health problems. Further research is necessary to comprehend the whole situation, especially which health effects occur from less exposure to pollutants and which occur from higher levels of concentrations.
Is your home or office recently suffering from poor air quality? Have you noticed deteriorating quality of air in certain parts of your property? Anxious to clean it up speedily?
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