With the recent poor air quality conditions in Pittsburgh, it’s more important than ever to look into what causes poor indoor air quality and how you can improve it. Good indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is essential for clean indoor air and poor air quality can affect health and well-being.
In this article, we’ll explore various factors that affect IEQ and get tips to help improve indoor air quality for your home or business.
Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Understanding the main origins of indoor air pollution is an important step. Common causes of poor indoor air quality include volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from products like paint, cleaning supplies, and pesticides. Indoor air quality can also be affected by dust, mold, and toxins produced by burning wood, paper, and tobacco.
Chemical pollutants are considered one of the main contributors to poor indoor environmental quality. Cleaning products, paints, and carpets can include VOCs that may trigger throat irritation, headaches, and nausea. And don’t forget about the smoke caused by forest fires.
Some furnishings or building materials, including particle boards, may emit formaldehyde. This is a colorless, pungent-smelling gas. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports prolonged exposure to formaldehyde at high levels can cause side effects. These include watery or burning eyes, a burning sensation in the throat, and difficulty breathing.
Second-hand smoke, or Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS), can affect indoor environmental quality. Cancer-causing airborne particles can be emitted from burning cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. These airborne particles can also be exhaled by tobacco product smokers.
Second-hand smoke can irritate the eyes and throat. It can also increase the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Even worse, second-hand smoke can linger for several hours in an enclosed space compromising fresh air and indoor environmental quality.
Mold is a fungus that can grow on wet surfaces when exposed to warm temperatures and humidity. This growth can lead to musty odors, allergic reactions, and sometimes even more severe breathing issues such as asthma attacks. It is important to keep relative humidity levels between 30-50% to prevent mold from growing indoors.
Pet dander is extremely common in households with pets. It can cause sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and runny noses. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to regularly groom your pet, vacuum frequently, and clean furniture. Additional action steps can be taken to reduce pet dander indoors, including:
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Install an air purifier
- Change air filters
- Bathe pets
- Wash bedding and curtains
6 Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Maintaining good indoor air quality will go a long way. It helps to keep the indoor environment safe from airborne germs and pollutants. This can make it easier for people with asthma, allergies, and other breathing illnesses.
Here are six tips that could help improve the air you breathe indoors:
1. Ventilate Your Space
Ventilation is the most effective way to improve indoor environmental quality. Open windows on opposite sides of a room to create cross ventilation. Fresh air from open windows and ventilation systems can reduce airborne contaminants. Open windows and doors when weather permits for natural ventilation.
Ventilation systems, exhaust fans, and air-to-air heat exchangers are excellent solutions for air circulation. They improve air quality by circulating fresh, clean air. These ventilation solutions can also remove pollutants, moisture, and odors.
2. Improve Air Filtration
Air filters help trap dust, pollen, and mold spores in circulated air. Research the right filter choice for your home or office environment. It should be designed to trap airborne particles and contaminants.
Clogged air filters should be replaced regularly. To improve indoor air quality, it is recommended to install higher-grade HEPA or pleated air filters. Air purifiers can also provide extra protection against allergens and other airborne particles.
3. Control Humidity Levels
Humidity control can help maintain good indoor air quality. Controlling humidity levels can affect our health and comfort. Too much humidity can cause mold and other allergens, like dust mites. Too little humidity can make the air dry, uncomfortable, and hard to breathe.
There are a few simple ways to control indoor humidity levels and maintain the right amount of humidity:
- Install a dehumidifier to help reduce humidity levels.
- Increase the amount of moisture in the air by using a humidifier.
- Use energy-saving systems such as an energy recovery ventilator.
4. Cut Down on Chemical Based Cleaning Products
Chemical cleaning products can harm indoor air quality. They release fumes and particles into the air. Harsh chemical-based cleaning products can trigger skin conditions such as eczema, aggravate allergies, and affect natural breathing. Natural, non-toxic cleaning products can be a healthier and safer choice.
Several health problems can come from exposure to toxic fumes. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Windows and doors should also be open while using cleaning products to provide ventilation.
5. Add Plants to Indoor Spaces
Plants can naturally improve indoor air quality. Indoor plants filter pollutants and provide oxygen. They also clean the air of carbon dioxide.
Some plants are better at cleaning the air than others. Aloe Vera and Spider Plants are great options for improving air quality. Other examples include Peace Lilies and English Ivy.
6. Be Aware of Common Sources of VOCs
Furniture and building materials can significantly impact indoor environmental quality. It is best to opt for natural, non-toxic, low-VOC materials. It is also recommended to avoid using carpets or rugs made from synthetic fibers. These can trap dust and dirt particles.
Building materials can also impact ventilation performance. Opt for building materials with high permeability ratings. The higher the number, the more water vapor the material will allow to pass through it for better drying. This allows air to circulate freely and also helps reduce contaminant build-up.
Improve Indoor Environmental Quality
Indoor air quality can significantly affect our health. It is worth taking the time to ensure it is clean and safe. From regularly ventilating indoor space to installing an air purifier, indoor air can be clean, comfortable, and easy to breathe.
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Do you need an air quality upgrade? We are here for you. We provide affordable options to improve indoor air quality. Contact us today to learn more.