Breathing clean, fresh, healthy indoor air each and every day has a positive impact on the health of our building occupants. Did you know that a single person breathes 9.5 TONS of air each year?
So many factors can play a part in contributing to a building’s indoor air pollution: the site where the building is located and all the sources of pollution that surround it; the building’s original design and any renovations that have taken place both inside the building and in the landscaping around it; how well the building and the building systems have been maintained; the occupant density and the activities of the occupants within the building. Even simple daily activities can contribute to indoor pollution, such as the dirt that is carried in on our clothes and feet, cooking, cleaning, and smoking.
Common Indoor Pollutants
By identifying the common indoor air pollutants to a specific building, preventative measures can be applied to keep the building healthy.
Radon, asbestos, lead, and mold are pollutants that may require specific and targeted practices to properly control or abate.
Biological contaminants are quite challenging in that the particulates they release are small enough to be inhaled or swallowed.
Mold, dust mites, pet dander, skin flakes, pollen, insect and rodent parts, droppings from pests, viruses, bacteria, and germs can typically be found in areas where there is food or moisture.
HVAC components, as well as improperly vented kitchens and bathrooms, can provide enough moisture to attract and house pests that leave behind pollutants.
Draperies, bedding, and carpet provide a place for contaminants to accumulate.
Anything causing high humidity or dampness, such as water spills, condensation, water leaks, or flooding, can cause deterioration of building components and attract contaminants.
Contaminants, whether solid or liquid droplets, will linger in the air and are easily inhaled, capable of passing through our body’s defense mechanisms and entering our lungs. Heavier particulate will quickly settle on horizontal surfaces. Where there is an accumulation of heavy particulates on surfaces, it can be assumed that lighter particulates are lingering in and polluting our indoor air.
How to Reduce Indoor Air Polution
Two of the best protocols to reducing indoor pollution are establishing good housekeeping practices and proper maintenance of building systems.
Dry sweeping should be avoided. The use of damp wiping methods and the use of a HEPA-filtered vacuum is crucial to the control of dust and particulate levels. Changing HVAC filters as soon as they appear to be experiencing an accumulation of debris is important. Employing safe work practices and containment when performing activities that create dust will protect the building and its occupants from contaminants. Proper ventilation also helps remove and/or dilute indoor pollution.
Our indoor environment will never be totally pollution-free. However, with good housekeeping and building maintenance procedures, we can reduce the exposure our occupants have to indoor pollution.