Indoor Air Quality can be considered the quality of the air inside or near homes, businesses, and other buildings such as schools and hospitals. Indoor Air Quality can have dramatic effects on the general health of individuals and especially those who are vulnerable to respiratory disease or who have disabilities due to age or other health factors. In the business world IAQ has been associated with ‘Sick Building Syndrome’ which can lead to a reduction in productivity in the work place. Typically, business owners have the responsibility to make sure that the air quality in their work place is healthy for their employees.
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The standard of the Indoor Air Quality inside any given building is affected by a number of different factors including: microbial contaminants like mold, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and many other particles. In larger commercial buildings effective ventilation and the use of air filters are the most common ways to keep the air quality at safe levels. Homeowners can also use similar methods of course, as well as keeping the home as clean as possible.
In either commercial or domestic situations if you have any doubt about the air quality of your building, you should immediately hire a qualified and certified Indoor Air Quality testing specialist. It’s always advisable to choose a professional who is independent and who has no connection with other companies who undertake mold or indoor air quality remediation. An independent Indoor Air Quality testing expert will have no ‘agenda’ beyond simply providing you with completely accurate results. It’s important to check with them that they don’t have any connection with mold remediation companies who would benefit from inaccurate results that indicate expensive mold remediation.
Indoor Air Quality comprises of the collection of air samples and frequently the collection of samples from various surfaces of the building. Some more technically advanced systems use computer modelling of air flow inside buildings which can indicate the exact area where the ventilation should be improved.
Indoor Air Quality is a sub-set of a much broader category know as ‘Indoor Environmental Quality’ (aka IEQ), which includes IAQ as well as many other physical factors of indoor life such as acoustics, lighting, and temperature control. Unfortunately, indoor air pollution in many of the developing nations is becoming a serious health hazard. A significant source of indoor air pollution in developing countries is the burning of biomass (e.g. wood, charcoal etc) for heating and cooking. The resulting exposure to high levels of particulate matter resulted in between 1.5 million and 2 million deaths in 2000. [ Ezzati M, Kammen DM (November 2002). "The health impacts of exposure to indoor air pollution from solid fuels in developing countries: knowledge, gaps, and data needs". Environ. Health Perspect ]
Some of the principal common pollutants contributing to poor Indoor Air Quality include second-hand smoke, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), molds and other allergens.
Second-hand smoke is smoke which negatively influences anyone other than the actual smoker themselves. Second-hand tobacco smoke comprises both gaseous and particulate elements, which can include high amounts of carbon monoxide and other particulates that can get into the lungs. This is an especially serious issue in homes with young children present. Hence, it’s imperative that any adult smokers in such a household immediately take steps to give up smoking completely for the sake of the health of any children living there.
Another way smoke can affect the air quality is in event of major wild fires that can sometimes take many days before being completely extinguished. Once again, this can cause particular health issues for those who are vulnerable to respiratory disease such as asthma.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) are released as gases from certain common surfaces that can be either solids or liquids. They include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have negative health effects. It’s not unusual for the concentrations of VOCs to be higher indoors than outdoors.
VOCs are discharged by a vast number of products such as: cleaning supplies, many building materials, new furnishings, pesticides, various painting materials, and office equipment such as printers, copiers and many adhesives.
Organic chemicals are also commonly used as components in household products such as paints, which comprise organic solvents, as do many cleaning and disinfecting products. Indoor Air Quality testing emissions from building materials used indoors has become increasingly frequent for floor coverings (especially from new vinyl floor panels), paints and other common indoor building materials.
Recently there have been significant moves to introduce a growing number of low-emitting products which have started to become more easily available in the last several years. It is to be hoped that these new, and safer products will continue to become more widely accessible in the building industry.
Molds and other allergens are another common issue when dealing with problems related to Indoor Air Quality.
These biological chemicals are triggered by two major causes:
1 - moisture induced growth of mold colonies
2 – organic substances released into the air such as animal dander and plant pollen
Mold is typically associated with moisture and its growth can be reduced by keeping humidity levels as low as possible (preferably below 50%). It’s highly recommended to do as much as possible to reduce humidity within a building. The most common sources of moisture include, leaks from roofing or plumbing, condensation caused by a lack of adequate ventilation or ground moisture penetrating through the basement.
In many situations, if materials have not dried out several days after the flooding event, mold growth can start within the wall cavities even when it’s not visible by a casual inspection. Only through a thorough mold inspection, which might include removing floor or wall panels can you be certain of the presence of mold. If there are any indications at all that there may be an active mold infestation, you will immediately need to hire an independent Indoor Air Quality testing specialist. This is the only way to get accurate air quality results that avoid any conflict of interest. Business owners and homeowners should absolutely avoid “free” mold testing inspections as this may well be an indication that the work is actually being carried out by a company who undertake mold remediation and as a result their results are much more likely to be biased.
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Some of the source of this material is from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indoor_air_quality