Well, it depends on whom you’re asking. Quality as such could be a very subjective measure. To most people, “indoor air quality” is more about opening a window to get some fresh air. However, indoor air quality (IAQ) from a comfort perspective is very different from indoor air quality from a health perspective. To anyone not in the know there are seemingly innumerable factors affecting indoor air quality. Sounds complicated? Yes, it is…
But it’s only air, isn’t it?
No, it’s so much more than just air. The air we breathe indoors is something completely different from the clean air in the atmosphere. Why? Simply because a building is an enclosed compartment and depending on its construction and use, there are many things that could contaminate the air and put our health and well-being at risk. Often without us even being aware of it.
What pollutants impair indoor air quality?
There are literally thousands of possible pollutants, and they differ in different parts of the world depending on construction and ways of living. Here are a few examples of sources and common pollutants in the western world:
The building occupants – Carbon dioxide from our breathing, body odour – and worst of all – tobacco smoke!
Building materials – Dust, fibreglass, asbestos fibres and gases like radon and formaldehyde.
Products we use – Toxic vapours and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) deriving from cleaning supplies, pesticides, office equipment such as copiers and printers, glues and adhesives, permanent markers etc.
Furnishing – Dust mites, gases, vapours, odours and off-gas emissions from furniture, carpets, and paints.
Damp or wet areas - Microbial contaminants like fungi, moulds and bacteria.
How do I improve indoor air quality?
One way is to identify and eliminate the sources for contamination. However, we can’t get rid of all sources since most are part of our way of living and working. At the end of the day it’s about creating the optimal indoor air quality under these circumstances. A main means for this is to optimise air filtration and ventilation of buildings. In combination with heating or cooling we can obtain the optimal and comfortable indoor air quality.
It doesn’t matter if “indoors” refers to our home, the office, industrial premises or other buildings – improving indoor air quality is improving our long-term health and well-being!