2020 didn’t see a pandemic coming. A year later, community lockdowns and home quarantines are still being implemented and practiced worldwide to prevent the infectious coronavirus spread. While this has significantly reduced the air pollution outdoors, this has also affected indoor air quality.
According to Shelly Miller, professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder, keeping indoor air clean can lessen the chance of contracting and disseminating the coronavirus. A study conducted recently suggested that improving the air quality indoors could be practically the same as vaccinating 50 percent of the population to reduce airborne virus transmission.
However, the coronavirus is but one speck of an entirely bigger picture. Statistics from the World Health Organization cite that household air pollution is one of the primary causes of disease and early death in developing countries.
Being exposed to polluted indoor air can lead to an expansive range of adverse health issues not just in children but in adults alike – from respiratory illnesses to cancer to eye problems. Short-term can lead to coughs, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, and irritation of the throat, nose, or eyes. It’s crucial to note that if the symptoms gradually disappear once outside, most probably, the air quality inside is poor. Upon continuous exposure, in the long run, this may be the underlying cause of more severe respiratory conditions and heart disease that could even be fatal.
These health problems, in turn, can negatively impact the efficiency of employees who have accordingly adapted to work within the vicinities of their homes. Initially, poor indoor air quality could slow down a relatively simple task if symptoms were experienced in the previous paragraph. If left unattended and health becomes worse, a person might take time off work. It, then, could be associated with low productivity, thereby slowly chipping away the economy.
Factors for Better Air Quality
Indoor air can have allergens like dust, pet dander, and mold. Exposure to a high concentration of allergens causes allergic reactions and helps develop allergic airway diseases, rhinitis, and asthma. Notable sources of indoor allergens include pets, pests, house dust mites, and cockroaches.
More commonly referred to as simply “particle,” particulate matter is a complex mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. If inhaled, particles can have undesirable effects on both cardiovascular and respiratory health. Small particles, specifically those that are less than 10 micrometers in diameter, can penetrate the lungs. Some could even enter the bloodstream. Sources include outdoor and indoor particles. Particles that originated outdoors could enter the house through the opening of any doors or windows. But, indoor particles are released into the air by cooking and activities that involve combustion. These activities are burning candles and wood in the fireplace and cigarette smoking.
Humidity in indoor air should be kept at inadequate levels. If the humidity is too low, breathing will be difficult as the air would be dry. It could cause skin rashes, eye irritation, and skin and nasal dryness. Meanwhile, excessive humidity encourages the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew as well as dust mites.
Ventilation is a critical contributing factor to indoor air quality. Ventilation rate has been linked with job performance in office work and academic performance of school children alike. Only a minimal air outside exchange happens when a building is heavily insulated. So, it is essential to check ventilation regularly.
Temperature, like humidity, should be in balance and kept uniform, especially in extreme seasons like summer and winter. If indoor air is too hot or too cold, there will be discomfort. Too hot quickly tires out people. Too cold messes with people’s concentration.
If a few of the unwanted situations listed above can be observed, most likely, indoor air is polluted. Poor indoor air quality also has varying effects on people, some more vulnerable than others. For one, polluted air could interfere with children’s proper lung development and fetuses in their mothers’ wombs. On the other hand, the body’s ability to eliminate harmful chemicals in the air decreases with age. Therefore, the susceptible ones include children, pregnant women, older people, and those who already have cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Now, this begs the question – how does one improve the quality of air within the vicinity of one’s home?.
According to Dr. BuSaba, a clean house is practically a healthier house. Good indoor hygiene means minimum dust and animal dander. Cleaning should center on reducing the accumulation of pet dander, mold, and dust lurking in every corner of one’s home.
Keep rugs and carpets clean. They act as their air filters, catching dust and other particles in their fibers. At least once or twice a week, use a vacuum cleaner. Choose cleaner with strong suction and rotating brushes. It should be fitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. These remove more than 99.97% of all particle sizes. For best results, ensure to vacuum two or more times each week and wash out your filter regularly. An alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting is hard-surface flooring instead.
Mop up the dust left behind from vacuuming. Plain water is enough to capture the remaining dust or allergens. Use new microfiber mops and dust cloths for better cleaning.
Make it a habit to clean beddings, drapes, and other items that invite allergens — especially if you have pets. It is recommended that these items are washed in water at a temperature of at least 130° F. In addition to this, take into account that using dust mite-proof covers on pillows and mattresses and box springs could be a better choice.
Place floor mats at every door. The use of a doormat could decrease the amount of dirt and other pollutants from getting inside. However, it would be best to ask people to remove their shoes when entering the house. Shoes tend to have a buildup of undesirable dirt and other chemicals under them. Put slippers, socks, and house shoes at the door’s proximities.
Use an air purifier. Place them where most people lounge to help catch some allergens. It is helpful when the source of the indoor allergens cannot be controlled.
Make sure to change AC filters regularly. Electrostatic filters safeguard from dust and other airborne irritants. It traps them instead of recirculating throughout the house. Bear in mind that ducts have to be cleaned as well to remove dust that has been trapped.
Use cooking vents. Many indoor air pollutants come from the kitchen. See it that kitchen vents are on, or open a window to help filter out the air even more.
During the summer months, a dehumidifier (and air conditioner) eases moisture in indoor air. It limits allergens. Moreover, it tones down indoor pollen count as well.
Use a dehumidifier in damp areas, the basement, for example, to help stop mold growth. Another potential source of mold is the bathroom area, so make sure these are well ventilated, too. Brush off any visible mold that may have accumulated in the shower, on fixtures, or walls. Water houseplants adequately – do not overwater. Repair faulty plumbing that may cause leaks to prevent mold.
Fresh air is equivalent to safer air. Constantly replacing outside air with the inside air that has grown stale makes a safe home. So how does one know how much fresh air is ideal?
One factor to be included is knowing the air exchange rate compared with the size of the room. To illustrate, a 10-by-10-foot room with three to four people inside should have at least three air changes an hour.
Now, it should be apparent that the goal is to produce more than that. There are quite a handful of ways to achieve proper ventilation.
Open as many windows as possible – the bigger the window, the better. Even during the cold season, open them from time to time to allow fresh air to get into the house and open the doors.
Use the exhaust fans in the bathroom. Transport potential air contaminants by using fans in the kitchen to get rid of cooking fumes.
What’s more, set down fans by open windows to blow the indoor air out. It would support boosting airflow.
According to Philip Landrigan, MD, a pediatrician and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, “Probably the single most important aspect of indoor air pollution is secondhand cigarette smoke.”
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals. It is a no-brainer that quitting smoking would drastically increase indoor air quality. However, “If you just can’t quit, at least smoke outside,” Landrigan says.
AKCP HVAC Monitoring
To improve indoor air quality, therefore, HVAC monitoring is very important. For your HVAC monitoring and maintenance, AKCP is the go-to company. With over 30 years of extensive experience, AKCP proved its high-quality products and guaranteed customer service.
Examples of these gases are :
– Acetone (eg. paints and glues)
– Toluene (eg. furniture)
– Ethanol (eg. perfume, cleaning fluids)
– Hydrogen Sulfide (eg. decaying food)
– Benzene (eg. Cigarette smoke)
The VOC Index is a logarithmic scale that is relative to the typical indoor gas composition over the past 24 hours. With a range of 0 to 500, the typical value for a normal environment being 100. Values greater than 100 indicate worsening air quality with a higher concentration of metal oxide gases over the past 24 hours. Values lower than 100 indicate improving air quality.
The sensor can also measure the mass concentration of particles. This can be utilized during indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments of clean rooms and workplaces. Though the specific types of particles could not be detected, these VOC particles could only be sourced from:
– Exhaust smoke
– Airborne dust particles