With most people spending 90% of their time indoors, indoor air quality (IAQ) has emerged as a major concern in promoting health and wellbeing. Whether at home, school, or work, indoor pollution now poses a big threat to the occupants’ health.
Research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risks to health from exposure to indoor air pollution may be much greater than outdoor pollution risks. This means that while most people monitor outdoor air, the risk is actually indoors. With no focus on indoor pollution, more people continue suffering from adverse health complications.
Sources of indoor pollution are diverse and include biological pollutants such as cat saliva, dust mites, bacteria, animal dander, cockroaches, pollen, molds, and viruses.
Chemical pollutants include Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone, Radon, Environmental Tobacco Smoke or Secondhand Smoke, Pesticides, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – from cleaning agents and chemicals from new paint, furniture and carpet. Indoor air can also contain toxic materials such as asbestos and lead.
Monitoring and tracking indoor air quality (IAQ) and other healthy building environment conditions such as light, sound, and electromagnetic frequency (EMF), along with proper ventilation, are the most effective ways to combating pollution and sick building syndrome (SBS), a term associated with illnesses due to poor indoor air quality.
There are several symptoms that may hint at a deterioration in the quality of indoor air and overall healthy building environment. Take a look:
1. Noticeable Odors, Stale or Stuffy Air
If you notice an abnormal odor inside your home, it is important to investigate quickly as this could point to key sources of indoor air pollution. Sources of odors include chemicals in detergents, broken plumbing, and musty air due to mold or mildew, poor food storage practices, pet urine or feces, bacterial growth on clothing or hard surfaces, outdoor pollution from vehicle exhaust, broken sewage, and factories.
2. Dirty /Malfunctioning HVAC System and Poor Ventilation
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems play a critical role in maintaining a healthy indoor space. A diagnostic test should be completed annually on HVAC systems and if it is non-operational or the filters are old, immediate action should be taken to repair or replace.
A broken HVAC system not only makes your home uncomfortable but also raises the risk of indoor air pollution and affects the overall healthy building conditions where we live, work, and learn. When fresh air does not flow smoothly into your indoor space, there is a risk of a concentration of pollutants and increase in sicknesses.
After repairing or replacing the unit, measure and continuously monitor the air quality to ensure no contamination by VOCs, radon, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants. Proper ventilation is one of the best and cheapest ways to ensure your building and its occupants remain safe, healthy, and productive.
If you or other building occupants have recently started complaining of fatigue or headaches, your building’s indoor air quality is likely deteriorating. Some common pollutants such Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) deplete oxygen from the body, starving it from the essential nutrients required to perform optimally.
4. Health Complaints After a Remodel/Renovation
After remodeling your building, watch out for breathing problems, coughing and sneezing, dryness and irritation of skin, eyes and throat, headaches, and other health complaints. This could point to an increase in radon levels or VOCs from the new building materials including paint, ceiling tiles, furniture, and carpet.
Elevated levels of indoor chemicals and pollutants can cause headaches to occur. Sometimes these headaches can escalate to the point of disability. Ongoing research points to a relationship between headaches and high levels of air pollutants. Some of the indoor pollutants that increase headaches prevalence include lead, particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide, and carbo dioxide.
6. Excessive Humidity, Temperature, and Poor Lighting
For indoor spaces proper lighting (lumens), temperature (72-73 degrees is ideal), and a relative humidity of 30% to 50% is critical to avoid harboring the growth of mold and other dangerous viruses. If you notice rising humidity levels, poor lighting, or fluctuating temperatures this is a problem that will affect your indoor air quality (IAQ) and healthy building conditions and negatively affect the health of loved ones or co-workers.
Monitoring and tracking indoor pollution is the best way to guarantee the health of a building’s occupants and ensure optimal productivity. Be sure to track any rising health issues or declining productivity trends. Take immediate steps to remedy any adverse conditions such as poor airflow, lighting, and humidity, which allows harmful chemicals, viruses, and pollutants to grow in concentration. With proper monitoring and ventilation, you can ensure a healthy and productive environment and avoid the sick building syndrome.