Indoor Air Quality, also known as IAQ, refers to the quality of the air within a building.
IAQ is an important, and often overlooked, area of building improvement.
The effects of improved IAQ are immediate for those who work and do business in your building.
Conversely, existing health issues can be exacerbated by poor IAQ, since poor indoor air quality can damage weakened immune systems.
Some immediate effects are irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
Long-term health issues can include respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer.
Breathing low-quality air can aggravate the conditions of asthma and allergy sufferers, leading to more time off of work due to illness.
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, approximately 7.8 percent of American adults have hay fever, otherwise known as allergic rhinitis.
Hay fever causes cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure and is caused by an allergic response to pollen, dust mites or pet dander.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that occurs when the airways react to a variety of stimuli.
Approximately 18 million adults live with asthma.
It can be life-threatening when not properly managed, and annually, approximately 3,000 people die from asthma-related issues.
Asthma triggers include: Respiratory infections and colds; cigarette smoke; allergic reactions to pollen, mold, animal dander, feathers, dust, food and cockroaches; indoor and outdoor air pollutants; exercise; excitement; and stress.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), air quality can be improved by smoke-free air laws, improving ventilation and air purification in older buildings and reducing or eliminating known triggers.
Triggers contributing to poor air quality include: Combustion sources, like oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood and tobacco; building materials, like asbestos insulation and new carpet and paint; cleaning and maintenance products; plug-in/portable humidifiers; outdoor sources, such as radon, pesticides and outdoor air pollution; and poor ventilation.
Getting a handle on the sources of contaminants affecting your building's IAQ is the first step.
Here are some tips to improve your building’s indoor air quality and the health of your employees:
Smoke outside and away from doorways.
The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can linger in the air, affecting other people in the building.
Take cleaning to the next level.
Eliminating harmful mold and mildew in bathrooms and basements is essential.
Use all-natural cleaning products whenever possible to cut down on further contaminating the building.
Repair all standing water issues and keep your building’s humidity under 50 percent.
Any higher and you risk creating an environment where harmful bacteria, mold and mildew can thrive.
Properly vent all fuel-burning appliances.
This includes appliances like gas stoves, water heaters and fireplaces.
Don't store chemicals, paints or solvents within the building.
Keep them in a garage or storage area if at all possible.
Evaluate air fresheners.
Air-freshening devices may make your air smell nice, but they do so with a mix of chemicals that can be toxic.
The next level to improve IAQ is to incorporate more permanent technology to clean and purify the air.
A licensed contractor can evaluate and assess IAQ issues and make suggestions based on your building’s specific needs.
Here are some steps a contractor may take.
Improve ventilation in the facility.
There are two ways to accomplish this: Via natural methods, like opening windows to allow for natural air flow through the building, or mechanical methods, like utilizing industrial fans to move the air.
By improving air flow, IAQ issues stemming from foul odors, allergens and combustion and building materials can be reduced or eliminated.
Utilize an ozone generator, once the area is vacated.
Ozone has the ability to completely destroy the molecules found in bacteria, mold and mildew.
This method allows for a deep clean by permeating small cracks in the walls, therefore eliminating any issues from within the building's own structure.
Low levels of ozone are also effective and safe.
The use of hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyls is the latest technology available.
It is extremely effective and has no adverse side effects.
This type of technology can be installed directly in the building’s existing HVAC system and allows for continuous cleaning of the air and surfaces, even reducing dust, allergens, mildew and bacteria by up to 99 percent.
This method can improve the health of everyone in the building, particularly those who suffer from allergies, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
It also can cut down on the spread of the common cold and flu, since the technology cleans each surface in the environment, including bathrooms and kitchens.
No matter how big or small, making steps towards improving your building's indoor air quality will help everyone breathe easier.