We hear the words “indoor air quality” get thrown around quite a bit, but what are they actually referring to?
Indoor air quality (IAQ), also known as “indoor environmental quality,” measures how the air inside a given building impacts a person’s overall health and comfort. According to a study by the EPA, the air quality inside a typical home is up to five times more polluted than the air outside. Considering the fact that the average American spends approximately 90% of his or her time indoors, the impact of IAQ is of significant concern to nearly everyone.
Typical indoor air pollutants can easily lead to an assortment of ailments, including eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches and dizziness, respiratory disease, heart disease, and even cancer.
What Qualifies as “Good” Air Quality?
A building with good IAQ will be adequately ventilated, allowing the space to maintain a comfortable temperature and humidity along with a steady supply of fresh air from outside. That being said, it’s important that the building is structurally sound so that both indoor and outdoor pollutants are kept under control.
What Causes Bad Air Quality?
Bad IAQ can be traced to a wide variety of sources. Most IAQ problems originate from indoor pollutants that release gases or harmful particles into the air. Problems can arise when poor ventilation prevents enough outdoor air from circulating in and out to sufficiently dilute the harmful emissions.
Indoor sources of pollution include gas stoves, tobacco products and furnaces, which can release toxic by-products like carbon monoxide directly into the home environment. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals found in certain types of paints, cleaning products, building materials, and insecticides can also be somewhat dangerous.
Bad IAQ can also originate from outdoor sources — outdoor air pollutants can enter buildings through open windows, doors, ventilation systems, and improperly sealed structures. Some pollutants, like radon, can even creep in through a building’s faulty or dilapidated foundations.
Humidity is also a principal concern when it comes to IAQ. Inadequate moisture levels can lead to airborne illnesses and respiratory attacks stemming from chronic dryness in the nose, throat, and bronchial membrane. Conversely, an excessively humid environment can result in harmful molds and fungi. Indoor humidity levels should remain somewhere between 30-50%, with the ideal level being about 45%.
How Can I Improve My IAQ?
With all of these potential pollutants to contend with, good IAQ can often feel impossibly out of reach. There are, however, a number of ways that you can improve the air quality in your home without stretching your resources too thin.
The first step is identifying a space’s principal sources of indoor air pollution and removing as many of them as possible. The levels of dust and other dirty particles can be greatly reduced just by vacuuming once a week. Linens and stuffed toys should be washed regularly, and household chemicals and cleaning supplies should be stored securely and used sparingly.
It’s also important to keep tabs on the structural integrity of your home or workplace. Make sure that windows are sealed properly and building foundations are solid and crack-free. Radon and carbon monoxide detectors are also a helpful line of defense, and can alert you to the presence of undetectable hazards before it’s too late.
Technology Is Your Friend
While keeping your home neat and tidy is certainly helpful in terms of improving IAQ, sweeping and vacuuming can only go so far. Innovative technologies, however, can help you get the jump on harmful indoor pollutants before they get the chance to negatively impact your health.
A quality air filtration system, like the Rabbit Air BioGS 2.0, can capture particles that are small enough to escape through the vacuum and remain airborne indefinitely. The BioGS 2.0 employs a four-stage purification and deodorization system that captures everything from dust-mites and pollen, to car exhaust and VOCs. At the end of the day, the struggle for better IAQ will be significantly easier if you’re willing to do the research and utilize the proper tools.