What is indoor air pollution
Poor Indoor Air Quality occurs when gases or particles are present in very high concentration and it affects the comfort or the health of occupants. Poor IAQ may only be annoying to one person and at the extreme, it could be fatal to one or all of the occupants of a building. The amount of contamination will determine the level of health problems.
Indoor air pollution can cause major health problems. People who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time — children, elderly adults, and people with chronic illnesses — are often those most vulnerable to the effects of indoor air pollution.
Not everybody gets affected by poor IAQ. Some people are more sensitive than others, it is the people that are more sensitive that lands up in hospital with upper respiratory infections, severe flu like symptoms, pneumonia, asthma and eczema.
Tight Building Syndrome
In recent years new houses and office buildings have been designed to be energy-efficient with little natural cross ventilation. Security issues in South Africa forces us to keep our doors and windows locked and as such do not provide fresh air to enter into our buildings.
As advantageous as the energy and security designs seemed to be originally, hidden problems have been surfacing. Tight building syndrome is characterized by occupants complaining of specific health complaints common in these building investigations.
Health issues caused by poor indoor air quality
Signs and symptoms of the sick building syndrome are as follow:
Headache, dizziness, nausea, eye, nose or throat irritation, dry cough, dry or itching skin, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, sensitivity to odours, hoarseness of voice, allergies, cold, flu-like symptoms, increased incidence of asthma attacks and personality changes.
Most of the complainants report relief soon after leaving the building, although lingering effects of neurotoxins can occur.
What are the signs of indoor air pollution?
Signs of air trouble
- Mold and mildew and the accompanying smell
- Unusual and noticeable odours, stale or stuffy air.
- Clear lack of air movement.
- Excessive humidity. A relative humidity of 30% to 50% is generally recommended for homes. Remove standing water, water-damaged materials, and wet surfaces. These can serve as a breeding ground for molds, mildews, bacteria, and insects.
- Health reaction after:
- building renovation,
- moving into a new building,
- buying new furniture,
- or using household or hobby products.
- Feeling healthier when you go away for a couple of days but get ill on your return.
Where is this pollution coming from?
The most common contaminant of indoor air includes:
- volatile organic compounds (VOC). The main sources of VOC are adhesives, tile glues, upholstery, carpeting and glues, copy machines, manufactured pressed or laminated wood products, pesticides, cleaning agents, etc.
- Environmental tobacco smoke, respirable particulate matter,
- combustion by products from stove, fireplace and unvented space heater also increase the chemical contamination.
- Synthetic fragrances in personal care products or in cleaning and maintenance products also contribute to the contamination.
The biological contaminants includes:
- Damp buildings causes mold that gives off mold spores and gasses and they can cause severe health problems.
- pollen, bacteria, viruses, etc. These contaminants can breed in stagnant water that has accumulated in humidifiers, drainpipes and ducts or where water has collected on ceiling tiles, insulation, carpets and upholstery.
- Rat, insect and bird droppings can also be a source of biological contamination. Biological contamination causes fever, chills, cough, chest tightness, muscle aches and allergic reactions.
- In offices with a high density of occupancy, airborne diseases can spread rapidly from one worker to another. Air-conditioning systems can recirculate pathogens and spread them throughout the building.
Sources of poor indoor air quality
- Don’t allow smoking in your house.
- Painting a house will result in high levels of VOCs
- Laminated flooring results in high levels of VOCs
- Wet carpets promotes bacterial and mold growth
- Rising damp will promote mold growth in skirting boards, cupboards and wardrobes.
- Any organic material resting against a damp wall will result in mold growth
- Test for radon.
- Keep moisture under control.
- Humidity leads to growth of living pollutants.
- High humidity leads to condensation – leads to mold growth
- Structural damp – leads to bacterial and mold growth
- Personal care products and air fresheners can give off gases.
- Cleaning materials gives of gas
- Toilet water aerosolisation
- Poor plumbing will provide gas emissions from down pipes
- A cold mist humidifier or vaporizer can promote the growth of living pollutants.
- New bedding or matress
- Poor hygiene on bed clothing results in bacterial and dust mite growth both these can be highly allergenic.
- Perfumes and other hygienic products contributes to poor indoor air quality
- High humidity due to lack of ventilation – leads to growth of mold and bacteria
- Pressed wood and laminated boards are sources of formaldehide
Paneling or pressed-wood furniture may release formaldehyde gas.
- Carpets can give off gases when new and host living pollutants when wet.
- Vacuum carpets and sofas to curb dust mites. Dust mites are an asthma trigger.
- New draperies may have a formaldehyde-based finish.
- Fireplaces create CO and other combustion pollutants.
- Gas heaters create CO and combustion pollutants.
Kitchen & Laundry
- Household cleaners give off VOC’s that are unsafe or irritating vapors.
- Moisture from cooking and washing leads to humidity. Humidity results in bacteril and mold growth.
- Unvented gas stoves and ranges raise the risks of CO and combustion byproducts.
- Unvented clothes dryers promote moisture, living pollutants, and dust. Vent
- Engine exhaust carries CO and combustion byproducts.
- Paint and solvents.
- Pesticides and fertilizers.
- Fuels and cleaning materials.
- Wet materials
What can you do about it?
Remove or limit the source
We are able to manage the sources of VOC’s as well as organic materials providing bad indoor air quality as follow:
- maintenance of HVAC systems,
- replacing water-stained ceiling tiles and carpets,
- using stone, ceramic or hardwood flooring,
- proper water proofing,
- avoiding synthetic or treated upholstery fabrics,
- minimizing the use of electronic items and unplugging idle devices,
- venting contaminants to the outside,
- storing paints, solvents, pesticides and adhesives in close containers in well-ventilated areas and using these pollutant sources in periods of low or no occupancy.
- Allowing time for building material in new areas to off-gas pollutants before occupancy
- and smoking restrictions are some measures that can be used.
Increase cross ventilation
- Install air bricks above every door way and in every room with an exterior wall. Corner rooms will have 2 air bricks, one on each exterior wall.
- Install extractor fans in kitchens, laundries and bathrooms – this will reduce humidity
- The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems should be designed to meet ventilation standards (8.4 air exchanges per 24 h).
- The HVAC system should be operated and maintained properly to ensure that the desired ventilation rates are attained.
- If there are strong pollutants, the air may need to be directly vented to the outside. This method is especially recommended to remove pollutants that accumulate in specific areas such as rest rooms, copy rooms and printing facilities.
It is not always wise to install air bricks, outdoor air pollution in certain cities are severe. Johannesburg was rated the 85th worst air polluted city in the world in 2016. Some of our buildings are close to industrial sites. In these instances we install air purifiers.
Air purifiers are appliances that aid in removing pollutants from air. They are very helpful devices for people who suffer from bad health effects of indoor air quality pollution.
Hepa Air Filter
Air purifiers have HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters that aid in cleaning the air around that is circulated. They help get rid off pollutants and impurities from the air. It is possible for the HEPA filter to remove about 99.9% of dust particles bigger than 0.3 microns (the standard measure for microns). HEPA filters can clear the air of dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke and almost all pollutants present in the air.
Activated Carbon Filter
Adding an Activated Carbon Filter to the air purifier assist in removing particles smaller than 0.3 microns. In air filters, the activated charcoal adsorbs many types of VOC’s and pollutants, leaving the resulting air fresh and clean. For those who suffer from allergies, asthma, or other breathing problems, activated charcoal air filters could be the best investment you ever make. They’ll create a marked improvement in your home, enhancing your quality of life and helping you breath easier.
You are able to source these Air Purifiers from Mold Detection SA shop