How important is indoor air quality? According to the EPA, we spend roughly 90% of our time indoors. Studies from the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) have ranked indoor air pollution to be one of the top five environmental issues. The importance of indoor air quality in your home, school, or place of work is critical because of its direct impact on the quality of your life.
If you suffer from a variety of health issues (i.e. allergies or asthma) the importance of indoor air becomes especially important. How can poor indoor air quality affect you?
Bad Indoor Air Quality
It doesn’t take much for indoor pollutants to make our lives miserable. Commons symptoms include:
- Problems breathing
- Eye, throat, and nose irritation
- Skin rashes
If these symptoms go away after you leave your home, school or work, then air quality might be the root of the issue.
What can cause poor indoor air quality? It could be nothing more than small air particles like dust and dander, and larger particles such as pollen. But other greater concerns could include:
- Tobacco smoke – from a smoker or from secondhand smoke. The American Lung Association reports that “Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing more than 41,000 deaths per year. It can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including lung cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma”.
- Carbon monoxide – caused by incomplete combustion from furnaces, hot water heaters, dryers, or ovens that induce intense sickness or death.
- Carbon dioxide – could indicate a general lack of fresh air in the building. Studies have shown that this can have an effect on focus and cognitive ability.
- The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – found in some chemicals, cleaners, and paint. In high enough quantities, it can cause a wide range of symptoms.
- Radon – a dangerous gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.
- Asbestos – another cause of cancer found in many older homes and businesses.
Positive aspects of good indoor air quality
To name just a few…
Clean air is healthy air
When indoor air is healthy, illnesses can be greatly diminished. If we have hypersensitivity to mold or pollen, the building we occupy can act as a shield to help ward off outdoor issues that can make us sick. However, if those contaminants originate and are trapped indoors, they can also make our lives miserable. Through simple proactive actions like proper maintenance, monitoring of contaminants, and moisture control, we go that much further in staying healthy.
Clean air is lifesaving air
When our indoor air is safe, we do not have to worry about possible issues that can cause life threatening events later on. As mentioned above, examples of this include dangerous issues such as elevated levels of radon, asbestos, or carbon monoxide.
Clean air is productive air
When our children are in school or we are in a work environment, good indoor air quality helps prevent absenteeism and can help them (or us!) focus on the work at hand. For instance, the EPA has discovered that nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age has asthma. This chronic illness can be a leading cause of school absenteeism.
When we have clean indoor air, this not only helps students but workers as well. Clean air helps reduce absenteeism due to illness and also aids in worker focus and productivity.
Importance of Indoor Air Quality – Conclusion
The importance of indoor air quality in our homes, schools, and businesses can not be underestimated. Air pollutants can cause a wide range of health issues that include anything from itching and sneezing to serious long-term effects. An indoor air quality professional can provide excellent help in diagnosing an air problem if a source is not readily known. Having good indoor air quality is a vital component of a safe, healthy, and productive indoor environment.