Each year, it appears that more and more time is spent indoors – in fact, according to the EPA, we spend about 90 per cent of our time inside. Think about it; we spend most of our days going from home to work, and then back again. To get there we ride in cars or public transit. We travel from building to building, through corridors, tunnels and pedways without putting much thought into the quality of the air we breathe in these spaces.
That’s why I’m discussing the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ). Here’s what you need to know about the pollutants we’re vulnerable to inhaling, their related health effects and how we can solve the problem of poor indoor air.
Common Indoor Pollutants
There are many sources of dust and particulate matter in our indoor spaces; some of which are produced inside and others that can be brought in from the outdoors.
Indoor sources include natural substances like pet dander, mould and furniture fabric. Combustion byproducts from oil furnaces and fireplaces or smoke from cooking or tobacco use can also linger in the air. In the midst of office, home or building renovations, asbestos fibres from building materials and dust from sanding and cleaning operations can also add to the mix.
Common outdoor pollutants can include vehicle exhaust, pollen, smoke from chimneys or fire pits, and local construction projects. These outdoor sources usually creep inside through open windows and doors, gaps in a buildings’ structure or poorly-maintained ventilation systems.
Having an irritated nose, throat or eyes could be an early sign of poor indoor air quality. More severe symptoms can include headache, shortness of breath, sinus congestion, coughing and sneezing. If you’re exposed to poor air quality over a long period of time (at work, for instance), you can generally notice these symptoms disappear once you’ve left the building for the weekend or a vacation.
Inhaling particles less than 10μm in size can affect your lungs and heart. Prolonged exposure to such particulates can be especially worrisome for those who have existing conditions like asthma and COPD.
The best way to achieve good indoor air quality is by properly maintaining your buildings’ ventilation system – this means no leaks, ensuring that proper filters are installed and checking frequently that there is adequate airflow. In addition, it’s essential that all of your fuel-burning appliances (like gas stoves or oil furnaces) are properly vented to the outdoors.
Understanding what’s in your air is important when looking to solve your indoor air quality issues. Have questions? Be sure to reach out to us today. At Levitt-Safety, we’re able to provide you with all the tools you need (including rentals) to help improve your air quality.
Looking to learn more? Be sure to view the recent recording of our Particle Counting for IAQ webinar.