Negative Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Most homeowners and occupants of commercial buildings don’t understand the potentially disastrous effects of poor indoor air quality. First, the Environmental Protection Agency describes IAQ as the quality of air inside and around homes and other structures. Interestingly, indoor air pollution is currently ranked among the top 5 environmental risks to public health by EPA.
Primary Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Homeowners and owners of commercial buildings should watch out for some of the common pollutants in indoor air. They include.
- Sources of Air Pollutants
There are several sources of indoor air pollutants. They include.
- Fuel-burning appliances
- Building and furnishing materials, such as deteriorated asbestos, new flooring, upholstery, and furniture from pressed wood products
- Household cleaning or maintenance and personal care products
- Excessive moisture
- Central heating, cooling, and humidification systems
- Outdoor sources, such as pesticides, radon, and other outdoor air pollutants
Note that the importance of one source depends on the number of pollutants that it emits, and the dangers posed by the pollutants. In some cases, the age and maintenance of the source are also important considerations. For instance, an old and poorly maintained gas stove may produce more carbon monoxide than a new one.
Some indoor air pollutants, such as wood furnishings, building materials, and air fresheners, release fewer pollutants continuously. Other sources, such as cleaning agents or smoking, release these pollutants intermittently.
- Inadequate Ventilation
If very small amounts of outdoor air get into the building, indoor pollutants accumulate to dangerous levels, posing serious comfort and health challenges. Not unless the building was designed with some special modes of ventilation, buildings designed to minimize or restrict the amount of outdoor air leaking in or outdoor air leaking out have high indoor air pollution levels.
Just to mention, outdoor air can get into a building through infiltration, mechanical ventilation, or natural ventilation. With infiltration, air flows into the building through various openings, including mortar joints and cracks on walls and ceilings. Natural ventilation allows air movement through windows and doors, while mechanical ventilation uses differences in air temperatures.
- Short-Term Health Problems
The first negative effect of poor indoor air quality is on your health. It can directly hinder your energy levels, concentration, and mood. Buildings and offices with poor indoor air quality also experience low productivity. Air contaminants such as pet dander, mold, mildew, dust, and pollen can cause serious health issues, especially in families with hypersensitivity issues.
Volatile organic compounds, commonly found in paints, cleaners, fresheners, and glues, which evaporate even at room temperatures, can cause serious health issues. Some early symptoms of poor indoor air quality include allergic reactions, eye irritation, fatigue, nausea, coughing, sinuses, and fatigue. Rooms with poor indoor air quality also have more airborne bacteria and viruses, predisposing occupants to frequent colds and flu.
Those with lung and cardiovascular issues suffer the most health problems from poor indoor air quality. However, this can be solved by installing an air purifier. Occupants should also avoid using chemical cleaners, glues, air fresheners, paint, and other volatile organic compounds.
- Long Term Physical Reactions
Most of the health problems mentioned above are short-term reactions to poor indoor air quality. Prolonged exposure to poor indoor air can lead to serious respiratory complications, cancer, and heart conditions, which are all debilitating or fatal. The bad thing is that symptoms of these conditions often present after prolonged exposure, making it difficult to treat.
Nonetheless, if diagnosed early, various treatment options can be initiated. However, all modalities are time-consuming and complicated as most curative drugs of these diseases haven’t been identified.
- HVAC Failures
Another long-term negative effect of poor indoor air quality is failing heating, ventilation, and cooling systems. As mentioned, poor quality indoor air contains dust, debris, and contaminants, which can penetrate HVAC system filters resulting in overheating and ultimate system failure.
If the HVAC unit cannot suck air through the filter smoothly, it will continue pulling air forcefully, which overworks the system. This causes overheating, engine burnout, and malfunctioning of other system parts. If such occurs, you may have to replace the entire unit, which is quite costly.
However, you can prevent this from happening by ensuring regular professional maintenance of your HVAC units. This includes cleaning the ductwork and replacing filters. You should also keep your home’s indoor air free from contaminants. These simple measures will save your system and family from these negative effects.
Continuous exposure to poor indoor air quality causes several health issues. Some pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, can cause immediate death. That said, besides ensuring that you regularly monitor the quality of your indoor air, make sure that your home or building is adequately ventilated.