Health Ailments That You Can Avoid With Improved IAQ
Even with the pandemic slowly easing up, most of the world's population is spending most of their time indoors. As a result, understanding what IAQ is, what causes indoor air pollution, and how to avoid it has become more critical than ever.
Air pollution is often perceived as an external threat; pollutants like chemical particulates and dust in the air outside our homes and buildings. Without proper care, however, the air inside homes and buildings can be just as polluted as well.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
IAQ, or Indoor Air Quality, measures the air quality inside a house or building. It is an essential factor for both builders and homeowners because it directly impacts the health and comfort of the occupants of a building.
Familiar pollutant sources like combustion appliances (a stove), tobacco products, household cleaning products, deodorants, building material, and furnishing release particulates that can remain in the air.
Factors like how old the source is and used can affect the number of pollutants it releases. For example, some sources like building materials emit pollutants continuously, while some appliances emit pollutants when used.
Another cause of indoor air pollution is poor ventilation. When air does not circulate properly and constantly, it causes a buildup of pollutants in the atmosphere.
Health Problems Caused By Poor IAQ
These air pollutants can cause short-term health problems like cold, sneezing, headaches, nose, eyes, throat irritation, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea. In addition, air pollutants can also trigger allergies in some people. Therefore, it's crucial to identify if these symptoms are poor indoor air quality or other medical reasons through a trained medical professional.
Some long-term issues from poor indoor air quality are asthma, respiratory diseases like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, humidifier fever, and heart diseases.
Children and the elderly are especially susceptible to health issues because of indoor air pollution.
Identifying Problems With Air Quality
If you or a member of your family has any of the symptoms or health issues mentioned, you should check with a doctor if they are caused by polluted indoor air. For example, if these symptoms appeared after moving into a new house, it could be because of pollutants in the air.
Identifying different sources of pollutants around your house will give you a sense of how good or bad the indoor air quality can be.
Lastly, check the ventilation system within your house/building. Some clues like moisture condensation on windows or walls, dusty or dirty heating and air cooling equipment, mouldy books, and smelly or stuffy air are indicators of poor air ventilation.
1. Control pollutants at their source
One way of improving the quality of air indoors is by reducing individual sources of pollutants. Smoking cigarettes, for example, should not be done indoors. Using gas stoves properly can reduce emissions. Shut and seal windows properly to prevent external pollutants like pesticides from entering. Source control is an easy and cost-effective way to improve IAQ.
2. Improve air ventilation
One reason for indoor pollution is air stagnation - a deficit of air circulation. If the installed mechanical ventilation systems are ineffective, open windows and doors (when feasible and when it won't add to indoor air pollution) to allow air from outside to enter and polluted inner air to leave. Checking the quality of mechanical ventilation systems before moving into a new house should be an essential step. You can ask questions like the quality of the ducts being used in the HVAC system (do they have anti-bacterial interior linings?) to understand how good the ventilation system is.
3. Use air cleaners
Lastly, you can use air cleaners available in the market today to purify the air indoors. However, this can be an expensive option when you consider improving the air quality of an entire house.
Most people do not think that indoor air quality is essential to our health and well-being. Good IAQ leads to comfortable and healthy living, while poor IAQ leads to medical issues.
Fortunately, IAQ can be measured and controlled. Even basic cleaning like vacuuming the floors can help reduce the concentration of pollutants in a home. For anyone moving into a new home, questioning the quality of the manual ventilation system should become a norm.
The need for improving IAQ may have been amplified because of the pandemic but should be something that we look for first in our homes for healthy living.