Improving Indoor Air Quality
A significant, yet commonly overlooked factor in any eco-conscious building is air-quality. Typically many people tend to think about the quality of air as it relates to outside environments, however air inside of homes and offices can be even more polluted than the air outside. Toxins such as carbon monoxide, VOCs, allergens, radon, formaldehyde, and lead are commonly found in buildings with poor air quality, and can negatively affect occupant’s health.
The average person spends about 90% of their time indoors, and the products introduced to indoor environments, as well as activities conducted indoors, have a large impact on the quality of air inside buildings being occupied. The EPA recently estimated that the average person receives 72% of their chemical exposure at home, meaning that the places most people regard as safe, actually generate the largest amounts of exposure to potentially unhealthy pollutants.
The health effects of indoor pollutants may be felt instantly, or years later, so it is very important to address your indoor air quality as soon as possible. In order to understand exactly where to look for areas that will improve indoor air quality, here are 3 places to start today..
The most essential factor involved in maintaining a high level of indoor air quality is maintaining a clean premises. In order to reduce possible exposure to allergens and reduce dust build up, purchase machine washable bedding, and wash it weekly. In order to maximize the removal of dust, use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners. These devices utilize disposable bags and microfiber cloths, which ensure surface dust removal
Minimize Chemical Pollutants
A large amount of household cleaning products commonly used to sanitize and clean everything from countertops to clothing, are also major contributors to indoor chemical pollution. In order to minimize the negative effects of these chemicals, choose products that are certified by organizations such as Green Seal & GREENGUARD. Additionally, it will help to minimize the use of all solvent-based cleaners, or cleaners which release strong fragrances.
Other methods to minimizing chemical pollutants, are to improve air exchange, and limit certain chemical rich activities to outdoor areas. Improved ventilation and increased air exchange will ensure that chemicals don’t linger. It is best to completely eliminate certain “high pollution level” activities such as smoking, gluing, sanding, and painting from indoor areas if possible.
Moisture within the home can lead to mold growth, which can emit VOCs and particulates. The elimination of mold spores is impossible, so the best defense against this issue is to prevent moisture right out of the gate, or at the very least, respond to its development promptly.
The problem of high moisture levels within a building is a common source of indoor air pollution, and can be effectively controlled with the right system in place. Maintain humidity levels at less than 60%, and don’t be afraid to incorporate dehumidifiers, which should be properly maintained and cleaned regularly.
Make the necessary repairs to all leaks in a timely fashion, and if flooding occurs, take immediate action to remove the water and wet objects. If mold grows on any surfaces and materials, they should be scrapped and permanently replaced. Additionally, simple steps can be taken to enhance indoor moisture control. Always run exhaust fans while showering, and make sure not to over water any houseplants.
These three problem areas are a great place to get started when improving the air within your home or office. If you would like to learn more we suggest the following two resources:
Indoor Air Quality Association
EPA: Indoor Air Quality