Indoor air quality is important, but is often overlooked by most people unless something in their home or office is making them sick. In fact, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. With the average person spending 87% of their time indoors, whether this be at work or at home, it is important to understand what contributes to good indoor air quality, how to identify low air quality and how we can improve it if necessary.
Maintaining good indoor air quality is important for both your comfort and your health as inadequate air quality has been directly linked to a number of short- and long-term health issues. Some health effects, such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, may appear shortly after exposure to a pollutant. These immediate effects are typically short-term, treatable, and will often disappear once no longer exposed to the source of pollution.
Other, more severe health concerns, can arise years after initial exposure or after periods of long or repeated exposure. These effects, which include respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer, can be serious or even fatal.
Poor air quality in the workplace contributes to a decrease in worker productivity. In the US 20% of workers believed air quality problems in the workplace were harming their ability to do their job, with the EPA estimating poor indoor air quality is responsible for over 10 million lost work days per year. Employers are required by law to ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air in enclosed areas of the workplace.
Poor air quality in schools and educational environments can have a serious impact on students’ performance, comfort and safety. With nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age having asthma, and evidence that exposure to allergens and airborne particulates plays a role in triggering asthma symptoms, it is important that classroom air quality remains excellent. Further, those areas with poor ventilation and low air quality, increase the chances of Viruses, such as Covid-19, being transmitted.
There are various factors that can contribute to poor air quality, including:
Particulate matter refers to the microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter suspended in the air and includes particles such as pollen, dust, mould spores and soot. Particulates are considered the most harmful form of air pollution due to their microscopic size (
Exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide can produce a variety of health effects such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea. Alongside this, a high level of CO2 often indicates an area that is poorly ventilated, which may point to high levels of other pollutants being present.
Temperature is key to maintaining comfort at home, in school or at the workplace. Excessively low or high temperatures can be uncomfortable and limit productivity. Temperature changes can also cause physical reactions that affect the body’s susceptibility to viruses and other airborne pathogens. Further, higher temperatures can encourage the growth of mould, which leads to further health implications if untreated.
The amount of moisture in the air can interfere with the body’s natural cooling mechanisms. Low humidity can cause skin and throat irritation, and leave you more vulnerable to infection. As with temperature, if humidity levels become too high, mould may begin to form.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases and chemicals in the air, emitted from certain solids or liquids such as paints, paint strippers, glues, cleaning products, air fresheners, plastics, alcohol, and more. Concentrations of VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors, and exposure may lead to a number of short- and long-term health effects.
Air pressure can affect comfort and cause headaches or migraines if levels are too high. It can also have an effect on blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
If there is inadequate ventilation then indoor pollutants can accumulate to dangerous levels. Buildings without mechanical ventilation, or those which have been designed to minimise the amount of air that can leak in and out (in order to improve efficiency), may be subject to poorer indoor air quality.
The majority of airborne pollutants which contribute to poor air quality are invisible or hard to detect with the naked eye. Some pollutants may contain a detectable odour, however it is unlikely you will be able to determine if the levels are dangerously high based on odour alone. Therefore, we recommend using an air quality sensor to help ensure indoor air quality remains excellent.
The EL-WEM and EL-WEM+ continually observe Indoor Air Quality, monitoring particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10), temperature, humidity, VOC’s, CO2 and pressure to ensure the air quality is always excellent. If the air quality becomes poor, an alert is automatically sent to selected users, allowing for action to be taken to return the air quality to a safe level.
The most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate the pollution at source, or reduce/redirect their emissions. Some pollutants such as asbestos can be sealed or removed; others, like gas stoves can be adjusted in order to reduce their emissions.
Another easy way to improve indoor air quality is to increase ventilation by opening windows to allow fresh air in, and encouraging air circulation by opening any internal doors. Fans and ventilators should also be used where available to ensure adequate ventilation. Ventilation helps remove/dilute indoor airborne pollutants, reducing the level of contaminants and improving indoor air quality. When partaking in short-term activities that can generate high levels of pollutants, for example, painting, cleaning, soldering, or cooking, it is important to ensure the surrounding area is well ventilated. Air purifiers can also be used to remove airborne particles and gaseous pollutants, and improve air circulation.
View the EL-WEM for more information.
Created on 09/12/2021