Last edited 24 Apr 2019

A Guide to Improving Indoor Air Quality

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[edit] Introduction

You cannot see, but sometimes you can smell the indoor air pollution that is emitted by a variety of products, chemicals or even pets. Many of us spend most of our time indoors, and the air that we breathe in our homes, in school and at work can contain air pollutants that affect our health adversely.

By learning about these pollutants, it will be easier to control some of the common problems found in interior spaces. It will also help to improve indoor air and reduce the health risks related to indoor air quality (IAQ).

[edit] Common pollutants

[edit] Radon

Radon is an odourless, colourless, tasteless radioactive gas that is formed in the soil and is the second main cause of lung cancer. This gas can enter your home through cracks and breaks or holes in floors and walls in contact with the ground.

Measures to prevent:

[edit] Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is environmental tobacco smoke which can lead to cancer or severe respiratory illness. It is made up of two forms of smoke:

  • Burning tobacco or mainstream smoke which is exhaled by a smoker.
  • Sidestream smoke that arises from the lighted end of a cigarette, cigar, pipe or tobacco.

Measures to prevent:

  • Children are more vulnerable to secondhand smoke, to protect children from secondhand smoke do not let anyone smoke inside your home or car.

[edit] Combustion pollutants

Combustion Pollutants are emitted from the burning of fuels. In homes, the significant source of combustion pollutants are improperly vented or unvented fuel-burning appliances including fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, space heaters, water heaters, gas stoves and dryers.

The types and amounts of pollutants emitted depend on the kind of appliance, how well the device or appliance is installed, maintained and vented and the type of fuel it uses. Common combustion pollutants are carbon monoxide, which causes dizziness, headaches, nausea and fatigue and nitrogen dioxide, which causes nose, eyes and throat irritation and increases respiratory infections.

Measures to prevent

[edit] Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

Volatile organic compounds evaporate at room temperature and are released by a range of products used in homes such as; paints and lacquers, paint strippers, pesticides, dry-cleaned clothing, air fresheners, cleaning supplies and so on. They are extremely hazardous and can cause nose, eye, and throat irritation, nausea, headaches, and can even damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.

Measures to prevent:

  • Read and follow all directions and warnings carefully on common household products.
  • Ensure that there is plenty of fresh air and ventilation while painting, renovating or using products that may release VOCs.
  • Never mix products unless instructed to do so on the label.
  • VOCs , evaporate into the air easily when chemically contained products are used or when they are stored. So store the products according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Keep all the products in a safe place, away from children.

[edit] Asthma triggers

Asthma triggers can be detected in schools, homes, and offices and include dust mites, mould, pet dander and secondhand smoke. A home may have mould growing on pillows, blankets or stuffed animals, secondhand smoke in the air or cat and dog hairs on the carpet and floors.

Asthma triggers cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and breathing problems. Asthma attacks can be severe and life-threatening. However, asthma can be treated with the right medicines and by eliminating asthma triggers.

Measures to prevent:

  • Do not let anyone smoking inside your home or car.
  • Do the dusting and cleaning daily.
  • Fix water leaks and clean moulds.
  • Wash sheets, blankets or covers every week in hot water.
  • Use anti-allergy mattresses and pillow covers.
  • Keep pets off soft furniture and out of the bedroom.

[edit] Find out more

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.