Despite the fact that poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can affect the health of the occupants in any kind of enclosed space, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions around it. Read our blog as we examine 10 indoor air quality myths.
What exactly is “Indoor Air Quality?”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants.”
Poor indoor air quality has the potential to be harmful to tenants, staff and other occupants of commercial buildings. According to research, health effects such irritation of eyes, nose and throat are some of the most common symptoms. Prolonged exposure to poor indoor air leads to long-terms affects like headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
With individuals spending significant amount of time in indoor work environments and public commercial buildings, the health implications associated with exposure to pollutants found in indoor air has increased.
It is crucial to gain a competitive advantage with knowledge and distinguish myths from facts. This will help you improve the quality of the air in your building thus ensuring a comfortable and healthy environment for employees, clients, other building occupants, and businesses.
Here we take a look at some of the myths about Indoor Air Quality and bust them with concrete evidence and actionable insights.
1. You’re better off with indoor air compared to outdoors
This might sound like a no brainer; however, this is not true. The shocking truth is that the air you’re breathing indoors, is sometimes most likely to be more polluted than the air outdoors.
Let us look at some of the reasoning behind it.
If you take a look around your building, you might start noticing dust mites, the refrigerator, fresheners, fragrances, detergents, cleaning agents, and electronics. These are just a few of the examples that cause of poor IAQ in commercial buildings. Add to it the fact that most building structures are enclosed in nature; hence more often they can prevent the inflow of fresh air, thus making for a disturbing combination. This can be improved by air circulation that removes indoor air contaminants and prevents the buildup of pollutants. So, make sure the premises in your property are regularly ventilated through windows and doors, as well as with the help of exhaust fans.
2. Whole-facility HVAC systems result in good IAQ
Most people in the cities spend over 80% of their time indoors. HVAC is the most crucial system that helps with maintaining the indoor temperature, ventilation, heating and cooling. Whole-facility HVAC systems are only very effective in handling particles and not entirely harmful gases or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) because of the kind of filters they possess. The air we breathe inside a facility is filtered through the HVAC system, which also brings air in from outside. If you do not have a well-performing and regularly maintained HVAC system, the pollutants that come in from the outside remain trapped in the building. Also, if the HVAC is not regularly maintained, it can result in increasing moisture inside, which in turn promotes growth of mold.
Regular HVAC maintenance such as changing filters, cleaning air ducts, humidity control and removing moisture from the cooling systems would ensure good IAQ. Use of special mediums such as activated carbon to filter and absorb pollutants can also be used with some HVAC units.
3. IAQ has no health implications
IAQ, especially if it is poor, is bad for your health and that of every other occupant in a building both residential and commercial.
You may not realize it, but poor Indoor Air Quality, aside from potentially contributing to asthma can result in you having symptoms such as headaches, difficulty in breathing, nausea, itchy eyes, congested sinus and fatigue.
Most incriminating pollutants can be easily identified. They give off odor; some sting the eyes while others leave telltale signs. With this knowledge it can be easy for facility managers and building engineers to take mitigating steps to correct and improve the quality of the air in the building.
4. New buildings or fresh paint equals better IAQ
It is easy to understand why this myth is widely believed. It is new, so the indoor air should be clean, fresh and new too!
Sadly, that is not the case.
Paint fumes are high on VOCs and so are new commercial buildings. VOCs lowers the quality of indoor air and is absolutely unhealthy.
Additionally, materials such as formaldehydes used to treat wood, new carpet and paint are reasons why the new commercial property may not make for good IAQ.
Most importantly, new building designs result in more airtight buildings than it was in the last century. The result is impeded air flow and poor IAQ in most cases.
5. Humidifying dry air indoors is always good
The relative humidity, especially in winters, goes down. This causes the use of humidifiers. But, the real cause of the low levels of humidity would be leakage of indoor air to the outside and this is the root cause that needs to be addressed.
When you raise the humidity (moisture content) of the air in any given enclosed space above 40% then you’re inviting trouble. That’s because, mold, fungi, bacteria and other microbes tend to thrive with increased humidity.
So when you think of humidity in your indoor space, be careful you do it right or else you might end up doing more harm than good. A good way of preventing this issue is by sealing any air vents, which causes the loss of humidity.
6. Radon, not a problem.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas- those are facts!
However, saying that radon gas is not present in commercial properties is an assumption in error.
Radon is a product released when uranium breaks down in the ground. It is a radioactive gas that is notorious for been a high cause of lung cancer. In enclosed buildings such as common during the winter periods, it is not uncommon for radon to build up.
Radon gas is a major IAQ and safety concern as such checking radon levels in public buildings should be part of the IAQ inspection.
7. Improving IAQ requires a lot of investment.
This is not true, bad IAQ can be improved upon. With advances in Heating, Ventilation and Air-conditioning systems (HVAC), improving indoor air quality is not as difficult as you make it out to be. By eliminating pollutants and contaminants from your indoor air, HVAC systems can help improve the IAQ in commercial and public spaces.
Professional installation and regular maintenance yearly is very crucial for them to be effective. Using low-cost devices such as sensors to detect low humidity and IAQ levels, good quality of air can be easily maintained.
8. It is impossible to monitor IAQ like a Pro
You think monitoring indoor air quality is the prerogative of the professionals? Then you’re wrong. All that is required in this day and age is to monitor your building’s air quality is a smart air-monitoring device that can be easily purchased and installed.
The options available in the market range from simple alert systems that monitor a single safety hazard to more advanced devices that are capable of monitoring and alerting you on a number of potential safety risks.
The take home point here is that you are no longer helpless, but with any of these smart devices, you can do so much more to ensure the safety of the occupants of your building.
9. Ozone is a safe option
Ozone gas generators are widely used in homes and public buildings in an attempt to keep chemicals, odor, and contaminants at bay from indoor air.
Unfortunately, recent research suggests that ozone gases are detrimental to health. Potential health problems include chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, breathing difficulty and throat irritation.
It will surprise you that the EPA of the United States is yet to approve these devices “for use in occupied spaces” such as commercial buildings.
10. Air fresheners are good for IAQ
Though the whiff from these items when used can be pleasing to the senses, it should be noted that they do little or no good for the quality of your indoor air. The reason is that they contain chemicals that are harmful as with most commercial Air fresheners.
Prolonged use of these items will result in a cumulative build-up of these detrimental substances that will in turn lead to poor IAQ within the property.
Despite the fact that poor IAQ can affect the health of the occupants in any kind of enclosed space, there seem to be a lot of misconceptions around it.
Often overlooked by most property owners and managers, improving the quality of indoor air will go a long way in improving health and overall wellbeing of users of the buildings.
With some myths busted and knowledge gathered from this post, you can be much more effective in your efforts in achieving and maintaining good IAQ in any given enclosed environment whether it is an office or a large commercial building, thus ensuring that everyone is safe and healthy.