What is IAQ?
refers to the air quality inside and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants indoors can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns.
Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure but may not materialize until years later.
What causes poor IAQ in schools, homes and offices?
Air pollution in homes, schools, and offices comes from a variety of sources, includings, including organisms such as your dog or cat, or even mold. Usually we think of pollution as chemical- or gas-related, but that is not always the case.
Pollutants can cause irritation such as:
- Sore eyes
- Throat and nose burning
Pollutants can also cause more serious health problems, including heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses (asthma), and other long-term health conditions.
What pollutants do I need to watch out for?
There are a wide variety of pollutants that could be in the home. Understanding and controlling common pollutants in your home will improve your IAQ and help reduce your family's health concerns.
- Asthma triggers
- Secondhand smoke
- Combustion pollutants
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
What are some simple fixes for common pollutants?
Not to be a nag, but keeping your household chores up to date will improve your air quality.
- Dusting, everyone’s favorite chore. Dust builds up naturally within our homes, so you’ll want to make cleaning the surfaces in your home a priority. Because dust can collect anywhere in your home, you’ll want to wipe and sanitize surfaces all over the home. To do an effective job, you need to remove dust not only from your counter tops and floors, but from furniture, fixtures, ceiling fans, and electronics.
- Cleaning up after pets. We love fur babies just as much as you do. Some make more messes indoors than others, but either way, you’ll want to stay on top of hair removal in the home. Your pet’s hair/fur creates pet dander. If your HVAC unit is on, your filter is also working to filter out that dander. Removal of any pet hair in the home will help tremendously. If possible, use a vacuum with a filter installed in it as well. Additionally, any items around your house that your pets lay on should be washed on a weekly basis.
- Changing your filters. It may seem self-explanatory, but regularly changing your filter is the best thing you can do for your indoor air quality. However, you can also upgrade your air filter. Assess your filter and your needs. For example, if you have family members in the home suffering from allergies or asthma, purchase a filter specifically designed for those needs. Also, it may help to do some research. Some filters may be more expensive initially but save you money on your energy bill and improve your IAQ.
- Doing the laundry. This might seem silly, but dust and dander can live in your favorite blanket that you snuggle up with every night. Regularly cleaning curtains/drapes, all bedding (not just your sheets), blankets, and pillow covers will improve your air quality. Dirt, dust, and pollen can live on the surface of your clothes, so if you wear certain items a couple of times before laundering, be aware that this habit can have a negative effect on IAQ. This fact also holds true for items we don’t usually throw into our everyday laundry: coats, jackets, and scarves. We typically store these away when we aren’t using them, but it is a good practice to have these bulky items professionally cleaned periodically.
What else can I do to improve IAQ?
Be mindful when you’re cooking. Cooking fumes can linger and cause difficulty in breathing. If you have a ventilation system in your home, be sure to use it when making items that cause steam and fumes. To save energy, be sure to turn it off when finished cooking.
Consider your geographical location, since humidity levels vary widely from place to place. If you are in Arizona, you might have a humidifier on your HVAC. On the other hand, if you live in Georgia, warm, humid air is more common. Your home’s humidity level can affect your breathing, as dry air can cause respiratory issues. By contrast, overly moist air can lead to mold and mildew growth, especially in basements and dark spaces within the home, and also contribute to breathing difficulty.
Consider the areas immediately outside your house. For example, the doorways you use to enter and exit your home should be kept tidy, free of brush, dirt, leaves, and bugs. Routinely sweep your entryways and remove your shoes at the door to limit outside allergens, pollen, dirt, and dust in your home.
Choose cleaning supplies and solutions wisely. Avoid using harsh or abrasive chemicals in the home. Instead, opt for more natural methods when you can and make sure you have proper ventilation when you need to use harsh cleansers.
Whether you start small or do all of the above, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you’re providing better indoor air quality to yourself and loved ones.