Indoor Air Quality and Health
Indoor Air Quality basically refers to quality of air indoors and it relates to the health along with the comfort of the building occupant.
Indoor Air Quality has come into great limelight in this past decade. Many concerns have been reported with the quality of indoor air and a lot of research is being carried out in this area. Ever wondered why Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) has come into such Limelight?
If you happen to analyze your and your close one’s daily routine you would realize the amount of time you spend indoors. We spend a major amount of time indoors and spending such great amount of time indoors in poor quality indoor air raises the risk of suffering from many indoor air diseases and disorders. The concern of people suffering from different diseases/disorders is the main reason why Indoor Air Quality has come into limelight.
Understanding the Indoor Air Quality of the place where we spend time will aid in reducing the risk of suffering from health problems associated with poor quality of indoor air.
What is Indoor Air Quality?
The Quality of Indoor Air is determined based on certain factors, these are;
- Ventilation: Ventilating a room means introduction of fresh air/outside air indoors. The outside air when mixed with the indoor air dilutes the indoor air pollutants. Ventilation is of two types; natural and mechanical. Natural ventilation is through windows and doors where as mechanical ventilation is used in commercial/enclosed buildings mostly through HVAC system.
- Air change rate per hour: The other factor besides Ventilation which determines Indoor Air Quality is Air Change rate per hour (ACH). ACH is a measure of the replacement of entire air volume in a defined space.
With Ventilation we would know the volume of air coming in but with ACH we would know the number of times air in a defined space is being replaced with fresh/outdoor air.
- Humidity: A factor which usually plays a major role with growth of spores, bacteria, mould, fungi, etc. is humidity. Higher the humidity, higher is the chances of getting affected by bacterial infection.
- Temperature: Hot or cold climate makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t it? We humans have a thermal comfort range where we can be comfortable without using AC/fans or heaters. And besides this, some pollutant buildup is more in either hot temperature or cold temperature. So, if we maintain a proper temperature range we would also be comfortable and we would eliminate the chances of pollutant buildup.
- Indoor Air Pollutants: Indoor Air pollutants are categorized into chemical and biological. The pollutants releasing from indoor sources are denoted as indoor air pollutants and a concentration above a certain limit would have an impact on the health of the occupant.
There are many indoor air pollutants, some of them are natural constituent of indoor air while some are not.
To have better understanding and a full idea of the Quality of indoor air we are breathing, it is better to have a look at the various indoor air pollutants and their sources, isn’t it?
Indoor Air Pollutants and Sources
Indoor Air pollutants are such pollutants that originate from the activities one may carry out indoors. So, here is a list of general sources and indoor air pollutants which you may look out while assessing indoor air Quality of your home or workplace.
- CO, CO2, NOx, SO2, PAHs, PM: These are usually released from Fireplace, woodstove, Tobacco smoke, automobile exhaust (attached garage)
- Environmental tobacco smoke, PM: These are usually released from tobacco products
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): These are released from paints, aerosol sprays, varnishes, wood preservatives, etc
- Formaldehyde: The sources from which this could be released are Interior plywood, nail polish, glue and adhesives
- Bacterial, Mould, Fungi, Spores, Pet Dander: These are biological contaminants.
Read More about Indoor Air Pollutants and Standards
The factor which plays a major role in determining the Quality of indoor air is Ventilation and Wind velocity.
An imbalance in any of the factor could lead to certain impacts on the health and comfort of the building occupants.
Health Effects owing to Poor Indoor Air Quality
Have you ever experienced allergies out of nowhere or sudden headaches which you suffer from only when you spend time in a particular indoor space and these goes away when you leave that indoor space? This is a health issue suffered primarily due to poor indoor air Quality. Depending upon the level of toxicant dwelling in the indoor space and the amount of time we are exposed to it. We may develop short term or long term health problems.
Here is a gist of Health problems which may arise due to Poor Indoor Air Quality:
- Common health impacts from poor Indoor Air Quality are Coughing, Sneezing, watery eyes, Fatigue, headaches
- Psychological impacts: Impaired task performance, depression, mental sickness, difficulty in concentration, forgetfulness, irritability, etc
- Severe Heath impacts: Respiratory issues, asthma, Respiratory congestion, Nasal Congestion, Nose Bleeds, Dyspnea, Allergies, Rashes, Nausea, Vomiting, Fever, Chills, Dizziness, Lethargy, Sick Building Syndrome, Tachycardia, etc.
Sometimes it might get difficult to understand if we are suffering from a common cold or cold due to indoor air pollutants, right? For this we should know the Quality of our indoor Air.
To be able to know the Quality of our indoor air, we can help you to do it in your premises.
Read more about Indoor Air Quality Monitoring Service
How to Test Indoor Air Quality for Health
Getting the indoor air quality tested of the place where you spend your at most time is very brilliant way to keep yourself at bay from various diseases/disorders. If you do not know how to carry out indoor air quality testing then there is no need to worry, you simply have to hire a professional to get it done. Also you get indoor air quality testing home kits wherein you can do all the tests by yourself. These kits are then needed to be sent to the laboratory from where they are purchased and the sellers will provide you with the results! Isn’t this simple and great?
These tests provide a thorough insight about the quality of indoor air and the quality test is usually done as follows;
- Survey: Firstly a detailed survey is done to collect information like the type of ventilation, building materials used during construction of building, no of people residing, diagnosis of health related problems and disease history of residents, etc.
- Sampling location identification and selection: After a basic survey is done, sampling locations are identified and selected. Depending upon the survey analysis, no of sampling locations and duration of sampling is decided and accordingly sampling sites are selected.
- Selection of parameters which needs to be tested and analyzed: Depending upon the survey done, a list of parameters which are necessary to be tested is prepared and according a sampling methodology is planned.
- Sampling and Testing of Indoor Air Quality: Based upon the parameters selected, the sampling methodology may vary. There are many techniques and instruments available for sampling of Indoor Air Quality Testing and some of them are as follows;
a) Dust monitors usually measures Particulate Matter: PM10, PM2.5, PM1
b) NOx meter measures the levels of NOx in the vicinity
c) Sox meter measures the levels of SOx in the vicinity
d) VOC meter measures different types of VOC along with TVOC
e) Anemometer measures the wind speed. This will further help to understand the wind velocity, ventilation and Air changes per hour rates.
f) Swab Test helps to understand presence of biological contaminants
g) CO2 meter will measure the presence of CO2 in the vicinity and usually a CO2 meter is clubbed with a CO meter. Thus this will also give an idea of CO levels.
h) Thermo-Hygrometer measures the temperature and humidity levels
i) Indoor Air Quality Testing Kits will help for full analysis including mould, dander, carcinogenic fibers, bacteria and dust levels.
- Analysis of Test results and Reporting: After a thorough sampling all the samples collected are analyzed in the laboratory and samples taken through sensor based instruments are extracted with aid of computer. Once the test results are out they are compared with the standards like NBC, OSHA, ASHRAE and results are then reported. The Test report will also have a detailed recommendations section wherein depending upon the quality of indoor air what are the necessary actions needed to be taken are suggested with plan of action.
I know there would be some questions lingering on your mind, why standards are required, what are these standards? So let me quickly explain it to you!
Indoor Air Quality Standards
Any Test would be incomplete without comparison with some levels, right? How would we be able to understand the quality of our indoor air, is it poor or good? For this, researches have been carried out long back and based upon their studies associations like WHO (World Health Organization), NBC (National Building Code), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers) have devised some standards which are like permissible limits. Any pollutant above this limit will have serious impact on our health. There are some other organization as well whose standards we can use viz; IGBC (Indian Green Building Council), Bureau of Indian Standards (IS), etc.
Let’s have a brief look at these standards;
- National Building Code (NBC 2016)
|26 ± 2 ° c
|40 %: 70 %
- ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers)
|9 ppm (8 hours)
|22.8 ± 26.1 ° c (Summer)
|30 %: 65 %
- WHO (World Health Organization)
|10 mg/m3 (8 hours)
- Bureau of Indian Standards: Air Changes per hour rate should be 3: 6
Benefits of Monitoring Indoor Air quality For Health
for Health, It is quite evident that air quality can keep changing. If we happen to check our indoor air quality once and get positive results, it doesn’t means the quality would not deteriorate in future. It could deteriorate, couldn’t it?
To keep ourselves healthy and our indoors healthy, we must make it a practice to monitor indoor air quality on regular basis.
I know many of you would be thinking what we will benefit from monitoring indoor Air Quality.
The most important and fruitful Benefit we would receive is “Quality Life”. Quality Life is what all desires for. One can achieve that very effortlessly by monitoring the quality of indoor air and following the recommendations suggested for better indoor Air Quality.
Monitoring the quality of indoor air will give you a detailed idea about the air you are breathing.
“What we breathe, is what we get”, isn’t it? If we happen to breathe polluted air we might suffer from diseases or disorders and then there would be added cost to our expenses for medicines and Doctors fees! Sadly, we would not be at peace.
Don’t you think, this all could be avoided simply by opting for indoor air quality monitoring before the damage is irreversible? And again before having any double thoughts, always remember the famous Quote “Precaution is better than Cure.”
Now I am hoping every one reading out there would have a very detailed idea about the concept of indoor air Quality and factors responsible for deteriorating it.
Learn more about Benefits of Air Quality Monitoring
If you yourself feel like to do something for the betterment of the quality of indoor air you breathe or for maintaining Good quality Indoor air, here are some pointers;
Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Better Health
- Cleanliness: Having clean floors, furniture and walls would cut out contaminants like bacteria, mould and dust. Regular cleaning is thus must for improving indoor air quality.
- Indoor plants: Some indoor plants like Areca palm, Aloe Vera, Snake plant, Spider plant are natural air purifiers and humidifiers. These plants are easy to maintain and they help in improving indoor air quality in a natural way and aesthetic manner.
- Air purifiers: Air purifiers can be installed. Air purifiers are used to purify indoor air to have clean and fresh indoor environment. Air purifiers come in different types and installing air purifiers will definitely lower the load of pollutants thus improving indoor air quality.
- Ventilation: Having good ventilation is important to have good indoor air quality. Good ventilation system helps to recycle indoor air and doesn’t allow air to trap and pollutants to build indoors.
- Monitor humidity: Humidity aids growth of mould, bacteria and fungi. To eliminate these sources of pollution maintaining and monitoring humidity will aid to achieve good indoor air quality. Some indoor plants are good humidifiers, which mean they aid in maintaining proper humidity. While monitoring humidity levels make sure to not have damp walls as these are an eminent source for growth of bacterial contaminants.
- Checking for leaks: Water leakage may bring down the quality of indoor air. Water leakage will create humid areas suitable for growth of mould and bacteria.
Also Read How to Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Following these would definitely help in having an indoor air of good quality. At the end it is all about Quality Life. Breathing Good quality air will help us sustain our life in a healthy manner and we shall have a chance for living healthier and longer.