Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a key factor in indoor environmental health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. With that much time indoors people are susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. This is a wide definition that can run from airborne dust and allergens to bacterial problems, to VOC’s or chemicals in the air. Groups that typically are most in danger of poor IAQ are the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill suffering from respiratory or heart disease, but with that much stuff in the air, are any of us safe?
To improve indoor air, ventilation systems are set up to avert illness by eliminating airborne microbial contaminants. When there are inadequate ventilation and exposure to contaminant sources in a building, the health and quality indoor air quality (IAQ) is compromised.
Epidemiological studies have shown that buildings previously occupied by individuals infected or colonized with MRSA, VRE, or Acinetobacter baumannii are at significant risk of acquiring these organisms from already contaminated environmental sites. (Dancer et al. 2006, Boyce et al. 1997, Huang et al. 2006, Denton et al. 2005). Much of this risk is associated with coming in contact with viruses on surfaces, but further studies are underway.
Building factors or pollution in buildings that are most frequently associated with respiratory health effects include:
- Presence of moisture, water damage, and microbiological pollutants.
- Animal and other biological allergens
- Combustion byproducts such as nitrogen dioxide.
- Moisture or dirt in HVAC systems.
- Low ventilation rates.
- Chemicals in cleaning products.
- Outdoor pollutants or vehicle exhaust.
As a service provider, make sure that you are reviewing these factors with your customers, especially those in high-risk categories. Essential maintenance services can help keep systems operating at high-efficiency rates and improve IAQ through consistent monitoring. However, more may be needed, including specialized filtering, further dehumidification, and more.