Breathing healthy air is vital for your health and wellbeing. We spend 90% of our time indoors and yet we do very little to control or understand indoor contaminants to help reduce our risk of air quality health concerns.
Contaminants or pollutants cause the air you breathe to become unhealthy. Lack of ventilation, number of inhabitants and use of space and household items all contribute to poorer indoor air quality
Our homes are filled with everyday pollutants. Whether that's generated from primary outdoor sources or secondary indoor generation. These pollutants have both short-term and long-term effects on our health. Many of the more serious pollutants include:
Particulate Matter (PM)
A combination of solids and liquids present in the air. Includes carbon, sulphates, nitrates and water. The smallest (invisible to the eye) are the most potentially damaging to our bodies as they are the easiest to inhale.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Remember that "new car" smell that everyone loved? Well it turns out the odours are actually not that good for us and can even produce long-term detrimental health effects. VOCs are the measurement of chemicals in the air that are produced by the off-gassing from a material or product. Often building materials and products still use chemicals such as formaldehyde or benzene during their manufacturing process. Over time, these chemicals evaporate at room temperature and concentration levels can increase to an undesirable amount. Making the invisible visible is not so easy but we recommend to all clients to watch The Indoor Air Generation video listed below.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Most commonly produced indoors by the air we exhale, CO2 levels increase indoors with less ventilation. As buildings and homes become more energy-efficient and airtight, this means we have less fresh air. Many of the ventilation systems we use today recycle air to conserve energy, essentially moving the contaminated air around rather than filtering in new air. This results in high CO2 concentrations and poor indoor air quality. Increased Carbon Dioxide levels can create short-term effects such as restlessness, drowsiness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and headaches.
Bacteria and Viruses
Poor ventilation and buildings, with inadequate air changes, can lead to increased levels of airborne bacteria and virus, which increases the risk of infection. Ultra-fine particles can become suspended in the air permanently without levels of controlled ventilation. Standard air conditioning units also have the potential to increase transmission rates.
Mould, Pollen and Fungi
In the UK, a lot of our building stock is old which has been adapted to become more energy efficient. This has led our homes and places of work to become damp and increases the risk of mould. Mould grows on surfaces but can also be found to produce airborne spores which can be inhaled into our lungs and trigger asthma.
Damp environments can also increase fungus growth. One fungus often found indoors is aspergillus, it grows on dust and powdery food like flour. It can cause a wide range of problems, from mild irritation of your airways to more serious infections if you have a lung condition.
Odours and smells
Odours and smells commonly occur due to poor or inadequate ventilation. Unpleasant odours that are based on Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from everyday tasks such as cooking or cleaning can produce poor indoor air quality. Homes or buildings with animals or pets often suffer from potential unpleasant odours. Improvements to ventilation will help alleviate those causes.
THE IMPACT OF POOR INDOOR AIR QUALITY IN OUR HOMES