As you are reading this article, you are inhaling and exhaling air approximately around 10 times per minute, taking different types of gases and substances into your system. Since what we breathe in is invisible to the naked eye, the impacts of its quality and composition on our health and overall wellbeing are easily ignored or dismissed.
This is doubly true for indoor spaces because we have a propensity to think that the quality of the air inside is better than the outside. After all, while outdoors, we can see the dark clouds of smoke spewing out of vehicles, toxic exhaust gases coming out of chimneys, or the thick haze on the horizon.
While the condition of the outdoor environment affects the air in our homes, much of the pollutants that contribute to poor indoor air quality originate from inside of the buildings. The sources of indoor air pollution are much more insidious as they include many of our daily domestic activities that we may consider harmless. But before we proceed to explain what they are and what can we do about them, let’s take a look at what is Indoor Air Quality or IAQ.
Indoor Air Quality
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Indoor Air Quality “refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.”
Indoor Air Quality matters because the average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors and those who are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of air pollution such as people with cardiovascular or respiratory disease, tend to stay indoors even more.
All of the pollutants in the air that cause problems can be roughly categorized into three groups: gases, particulates, and microbial contaminants.
Gases considered as pollutants include carbon monoxide and VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are chemicals that usually come from household products and most of the materials we use in our buildings. Cleaning supplies, cosmetic products, paint, adhesives, rugs, and composite wood like MDF, all contain VOCs.
Particulates are relatively big—as compared to other types of pollutants—liquid or solid particles suspended in the air. They are mostly comprised of dust, dander, and pollen which are pieces of debris shed from humans, pets, and plants. Particulates are all common allergens that for some people, can cause mild to serious health problems.
Microbial pollutants are living organisms i.e., bacteria, viruses, and mold spores. Viral, bacterial, and fungal microbes such as staph, influenza, and mildew are all considered microbial pollutants.
High air pollutant concentration levels inside enclosed spaces naturally increase the occupants’ exposure and can cause a variety of health issues such as respiratory problems, infections, heart disease, and even cancer.
Due to lower air exchange, the accumulation of these indoor air pollutants during cold seasons exacerbates the risks factors so it’s important to look out for early symptoms some of which include respiratory irritation, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, and headache.
How to Improve the Indoor Air Quality
Proper ventilation is key to boosting the air quality of an indoor space. Doing things as simple as opening up the windows and doors (when possible) to allow the natural air to flow through can go a long way in reducing pollutant buildups in indoor environments. The longer the air stays stagnant, the more we breathe in dust, dirt, and other airborne particles.
Understandably, opening doors and windows is not always an option as nobody likes to face high energy bills during cold months. However, while sealing the house shut keeps the conditioned air from escaping, it also prevents fresh air from getting in. So doing daily things like burning candles and incense from Devon Wick, heating, cooking on the stove, or using cleaning chemicals produces particulates and toxins that accumulate inside the house and have nowhere to escape.
In these circumstances, using air filtration systems and purifiers can help remove the contaminants from the air to improve indoor air quality—for more information keep reading here
Moreover, if you use a furnace, one way of ensuring the upkeep of indoor air quality is to change the furnace filters regularly. This is important especially in wintertime when your furnace and heat are constantly running. Furnace air filters collect airborne contaminates which helps protect the furnace as well as improve the air quality. It’s recommended to change these filters at least every three months. Ventilation system servicing must be done timely.
Doing other simple things such as using the kitchen exhaust fan while cooking also tremendously helps in maintaining clean air. The fumes, odors, and steam that emanate from culinary activities negatively impact the air quality, and a kitchen exhaust fan can help keep them to a minimum level and prevent them from spreading and circulating throughout the house. Although, you can do a Home air quality test if you’re worried about your living conditions.
All kinds of air pollution affect our health and while the public is generally aware of the outdoor pollution, a few may know about what they are breathing in the homes, schools, and workplaces. Indoor air pollution comes from a lot of different sources but there are many ways by which we can lessen its effects on our health and our loved ones’.