Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): A Key Factor

 

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a key factor in indoor environmental health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. This time could be at work, at home, or anywhere in between. With that much time indoors people are susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. This is a wide definition that can run from airborne dust and allergens to bacterial problems, to VOC’s or chemicals in the air. Groups that typically are most in danger of poor IAQ are the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill suffering from respiratory or heart disease, but with that much stuff in the air, are any of us safe?. To improve indoor air, most HVAC  systems, when properly sized and maintained, are set up to avert illness by eliminating airborne microbial contaminants, mostly through effective filtering. When there is inadequate ventilation, improper humidity, and exposure to contaminant sources in a building, the health of the IAQ is compromised. As a business and facility building owner or manager, working to achieve a healthy building for occupants is essential.

As it relates to the current pandemic crisis, many are questioning what role HVAC systems and good IAQ have in our overall health. We can only look to the scientific community for answers. 

Epidemiological studies have shown that buildings previously occupied by individuals infected or colonized with MRSA, VRE, or Acinetobacter baumannii are at a significant risk of acquiring these organisms from previously contaminated environmental sites. (Dancer et al. 2006, Boyce et al. 1997, Huang et al. 2006, Denton et al. 2005)

Building factors or pollution in buildings that are most frequently associated with respiratory health effects include:

  • Presence of moisture, water damage, and microbiological pollutants.
  • Animal and other biological allergens
  • Combustion byproducts such as nitrogen dioxide.
  • Moisture or dirt in HVAC systems.
  • Low ventilation rates.
  • Formaldehyde.
  • Chemicals in cleaning products.
  • Outdoor pollutants or vehicle exhaust.

IAQ in your building

According to OSHA, when you have poor indoor air quality inside your home it can cause headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, skin rashes, and eye, nose, throat, lung irritation, and chronic health problems such as asthma. EPA states that your indoor air is likely 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside. To keep indoor air quality inside a building in top shape, is it important to control the building’s humidity. The EPA recommends a range of 30-50% humidity in your space. Bacteria and viruses thrive and circulate through poorly maintained building ventilation systems, as with Legionnaires’ disease. Damp, humid air can increase the survival rate of viruses indoors. While keeping humidity down helps slow the process of mold, proper ventilation helps keep the air floor uncontaminated. Using a system with filters can help remove biological contaminants. When air is stagnant air disease is more likely to spread.  The EPA has created a Building Air Quality Guide: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers

With all the uncertainty of the current climate, it is important to take care of the things you can control, like your indoor air quality. Clean, maintained HVAC systems will help prevent the spread of many environmental health issues. To keep HVAC Systems healthy regular maintenance is essential. 

A good place to start to achieve a healthy environment at work and home is ASHRAE’s article on Good IAQ Practices. 

 

Next Steps:

Check your basic skills on duct and ventilation system cleaning

Read: Better HVAC IAQ with Copper?

Get some tips and tricks to cleaning ducts and ventilation systems

 

 

 

 

One comment


  • Nice post, People have a lot of choices to select a suitable HVAC company depending on their requirements and budget. Customers can make a choice depending on the location because multiple companies serve the same area. Opting for the top HVAC company is critical as it saves time and money, they also ensure comfort and follow the standards. To find HVAC company in Houston, click here:-

    June 6, 2020

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