The importance of healthy indoor air quality

The most common indoor air pollutants and how to eliminate them
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
By John Ward

To achieve healthy indoor air quality, various measures can be applied, among which thorough and systematical air quality monitoring is the vital one. It is up to management to take care of the quality of air in their building.

Indoor air pollution is mainly brought about by fuel combustion which pollutes both inside and outside air. The pollution triggered by incomplete fuel combustion in low-efficiency stoves and lightening is the single most important direct health risk. Apart from this, there are various different contributors to indoor air pollution, including radon, emissions from building materials, asbestos, mould etc.

In fact, any type of airborne gas, vapour, particulate or substance that can generate negative health effects can be considered an air contaminant. However, they can be divided into three major groups, according to their type:

  1. Biological Pollutants (mould, mildew, fungi, pollen, dust mites, bacteria)
  2. Chemical Pollutants (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, asbestos, ozone, lead, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds)
  3. Radiological Pollutants (radon)

The most common sources of these contaminants are something that can be found in most buildings. In other words, the majority of air contaminants are released by the presence or activity of the following categories indoors:

  • Occupants (tobacco smoke, perfume, body odours, CO2)
  • Materials (dust, gases, asbestos, fibreglass)
  • Cleansers/solvents/pesticides (VOCs, toxic vapors)
  • Off-gas emissions from carpets, furniture, and paints (gases, vapours, odours)
  • Carpets and fabrics (dust mites)
  • Damp areas (mould, bacteria, fungi)
  • Photocopiers, electric motors, air cleaners (ozone)

Eliminating indoor air pollutants

The first step in the air quality improvement policy is day-to-day inspection and monitoring of the air quality in different areas. The best way to eliminate air pollutants from the indoor environment is to hire an expert indoor air quality inspection service that can apply thorough measures for air quality evaluation and improvement.

Nonetheless, there are things you can do on your own to improve the quality of air in your facility. Maintaining good air quality inside your facility relies on five factors:

Adequate ventilation – keep your windows wide open for 10-15 minutes twice a day, so that the fresh air from the outside can fill your facility. It is also necessary to keep the doors between rooms open most of the time. Using exhaust fans when showering, cooking, using the dishwasher or performing any other activities that emit vapour is a must if you want to keep your indoor atmosphere fresh and clean.
Moisture control – the humidity levels indoors should be kept at an ideal 30-50 per cent. To do this, using a dehumidifier on a daily basis is advised. During the summer months, AC is also very beneficial to the indoor air quality.
Creating a smoke-free environment – make sure that employees and visitors don’t smoke inside. You might want to consider marking a smoking area on your property.
Regular and thorough cleaning – dusting and vacuuming on daily basis will make the facility air much fresher, and much cleaner and comfortable.
Repairing water damage – water leakage, leaky pipes or foundation cracks are very important issues that need to be immediately resolved, as they can bring about excessive moisture and that way provoke mould growth. Mould, being a dangerous health risk, needs to be dealt with the utmost care and professionalism.

Testing, monitoring and inspection

To keep the air inside fresh and clean it is very important to always adhere to the aforementioned preventive rules – moisture control, proper ventilation, air exchange and cleanliness, combined with regular air quality monitoring and inspections.

The air inspections consist of air quality testing which can be viable and non-viable. Viable testing reveals the exact type of pollutant, while non-viable testing determines the level of contamination.

No matter which type of these tests are chosen, they present the first step in improving the indoor air quality and the quality of life in general.

John Ward began his career in the mould inspection and removal industry 15 years ago as a mould remediation technician. Today, he is the account executive at Mold Busters, specializing in indoor air quality issues. He promotes healthy indoor air quality by supporting mould awareness seminars organization in Ottawa and Montreal – with the aim to raise awareness of the risks of mould exposure and the need for mould protection.

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