Top Six Reasons Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a Hot Topic

Take a breath. Smell anything? Probably not anything unusual, but the air you’re breathing inside your home or office may not be of the quality you expect. New challenges in indoor air quality (IAQ) that stem from natural disasters, technological advances and even building materials and design are occurring in the HVAC space.

In this post, we explore six reasons indoor air quality is a hot topic.

1) Recent Natural Disasters

According to a report in Environmental Health Perspectives, riding out the storm and the recovery period are the times when IAQ is endangered. Hurricanes like Katrina and floods like the Mississippi River flood of 2011 can cause mold in flooded basements and attics. And while generators can provide power in emergencies, they can also impact IAQ if not used properly, says John Spengler, an atmospheric scientist at Harvard. He chaired the committee that wrote a report on the effects of climate change on IAQ commissioned by the EPA in 2011.

Spengler says that when people use generators without proper ventilation, they can end up in the ER or even die from the carbon monoxide exposure. He also says that “weatherizing materials and techniques may be commercialized faster than their health implications can be assessed.”

2) Recent Man-Made Disasters

Going with what Spengler said about commercialization moving faster than health research, IAQ can be harmed by unstudied materials such as Chinese drywall. We found problems with HVAC coil corrosion when builders were importing dry wall from China, post-Hurricane Katrina. This corrosion compromised air quality and caused everything from the smell of rotten eggs to ruined air conditioning units. Read our blog post on the Chinese drywall disaster and watch the video below to see how particles and chemicals can affect the air we breathe indoors.

3) 90% of Our Time is Spent Indoors

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend almost all of their time indoors. And the agency reports that a “growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”

We are all exposed to chemicals and pollution – both indoor and outdoor. Does it all really matter at the end of the day? It may not matter in a short time span, but the exposure to indoor pollution occurs over time and the people who do spend almost all of their time indoors are the most affected. Children, the elderly, as well men and women suffering from respiratory and heart diseases are often the victims of poor IAQ.

4) Energy Efficiency Initiatives Lead to Tighter Building Designs

Energy efficiency upgrades in new construction and renovations to older structures such as replacing windows, and sealing up windows and doors can save you money on utilities, but they can also affect indoor air quality. A building requires a certain mix of indoor and outdoor air to control pollutant levels. “If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems,” reports the EPA.

The answer to this problem is to ensure the ventilation is providing the proper mix of inside and outside air and to evaluate the airflow after any major updates.

5) Extreme Differences in Indoor/Outdoor Air Temperatures & Poor Insulation

In the February issue of Indoor Environment Connections, Dr. Harriet Burge, director of Aerobiology EMLab P&K in San Bruno, Calif., writes that “when temperatures are higher and relative humidity is lower indoors than outdoors, you can have major differences in temperatures and humidity levels in poorly insulated indoor rooms.” This can lead to condensation, which can lead to mold growth. She recommends heating for closets on outside walls and not placing carpets on floors that aren’t insulated.

6) Smoking Indoors

A number of recent news reports show that smoking bans can dramatically improve IAQ. In a recent study from the University of Kentucky on how a smoking ban affected air quality in hospitality venues in Kenton County, Kentucky, indoor air pollution levels dropped 60%. However, the “split-shift” exemption that allows smoking in certain establishments at night “exposed workers to toxic levels of secondhand smoke,” according to Ellen Hahn, the director of Kentucky’s Center for Smoke-Free Policy and the study’s lead author.

Goodway has just launched a new line of products that combat the everyday issues HVAC technicians see with managing air quality. Mold and mildew removers and mold inhibitors can help keep air quality at it’s best and limit exposure to life threaten allergies and infections. Plus HVAC odor control can be managed more effectively when controlling bacterial growth. These solutions are specifically designed for us in HVAC coils, duct work and condensate pans.

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