Is your indoor air quality harming you? According to NEEF (National Environmental Education Foundation) “indoor air pollution is consistently ranked by [the] EPA as among the top five environmental risks to public health....” and since, on average, American’s spend 90% of their time indoors this is an alarming point to consider.
Beyond that, typical concentrations of pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors, according the EPA.
The manners in which poor indoor air quality negatively affects health are vast—symptoms can be anything from irritated nose or eyes to dizziness or fatigue to lung disease, and even death due to exposure to carbon monoxide which is virtually impossible to detect without alarms installed in homes.
Other life-threatening ways our health may be affected from poor indoor air quality are heart disease or attacks, long-term respiratory illness and lung disease, or legionnaires’ disease—a form of pneumonia caused by legionella bacterium—caused by poorly maintained air conditioning and furnace units.
Common Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality
Improper or Not Enough Ventilation
According to a Forbes article, citing the EPA, “Inadequate ventilation can also contribute to indoor air pollution by trapping the allergens and pollutants inside and keeping the outdoor air from diluting emissions caused by the pollutants...”
Improper ventilation can happen when air conditioning units or any appliance that vents to the outdoors is not cleaned or working efficiently. Ventilation systems are designed to cycle through air and move indoor air outside—a general rule of thumb is that allowing fresh air into your building can help with overall air quality. So, when the ventilation systems are not cleaned regularly it can cause toxins to actually be filtered back indoors as the system is working efficiently.
In addition, most buildings have places where outside air makes its way into a building such as cracks in building structure, seams around doors and windows, or any place where there is an opening that leads in or out of a structure.
Depending on global location and time of year, these things can have a significant impact as outdoor air quality can contribute to poor indoor air quality. For example, if a building is in a more densely populated area—such as a city environment--it becomes important to make sure exposure to poor outdoor air is limited by checking seals and fixing any structural issues where air may get into a building, since exposure to higher concentrations of vehicle exhaust or other toxins that come from densely populated areas is more likely.
In most cases, making sure there is a good amount of clean outdoor air getting into a space is important because this helps filter out the indoor air that may be holding in toxins, but again, location, environment and outdoor air quality play a key role.
In another example, global warming can even have a negative effect on indoor air quality due to environments dealing with longer periods of wet or dry seasons that can contribute to excessive mold or mildew growing indoors—also a leading culprit of poor indoor air quality.
- Indoor Irritants & VOC’s
Indoor irritants are naturally occurring or synthetic and come in a wide variety of forms from radon that can leach in through basement walls, carbon monoxide from furnaces, pet dander, insect particles, to smoke from cigarettes or fireplaces, the list is long and the EPA describes in further detail on their website.
VOC’s are chemical compounds that evaporate at room temperature and can mix into the air we breathe causing irritation and harmful side effects. They are found in everyday household and personal products; from paint to household cleaning products to personal care products such as hair spray, VOC’s contribute to poor indoor air quality.
What You Can Do to Get Better Indoor Air Quality
- Step Up Your Floor Cleaning Routine
According to the EPA: “...when people enter buildings, they can inadvertently bring in soils and dusts on their shoes and clothing from the outdoors, along with pollutants that adhere to those particles.” These pollutants can be tracked through a building and kicked up into the air.
It is essential to keep flooring clean due to the role it plays in overall indoor air quality and routine floor cleaning can have a substantial impact on that. Following schedules for daily cleaning could result in cleaner air and healthier indoor air quality.
According to Petro Home Services, a heating, cooling, and plumbing company, “Rugs and carpets do more than increase the comfort of your home. They act as their own air filters, trapping dust and other particles in their many fibers.” This is true for any building that has soft flooring surfaces.
Using autonomous solutions like Whiz, an autonomous vacuum sweeper, distributed by ICE Robotics in partnership with SoftBank Robotics, can be a game changer. Whiz can be deployed to follow an exact route every time it is used, and it has route sequencing capabilities (meaning it can be programmed to complete more than one route without being reset) allowing for increased frequency and a consistent quality clean at the touch of a button.
Beyond that Whiz, works alongside staff by taking on the repetitive work of vacuuming, allowing cleaning staff to focus on other high touch point areas of your building, resulting in more cleaning done regularly. Not only does this increase cleanliness, but it also adds to the overall WELL Building standard of built environments that are designed for the health and well-being of people. Working towards these goals can have a significant impact on overall indoor air quality.
Whiz is also built with a HEPA filter, designed to trap some of the smallest particles and bacteria, helping to clean indoor air and keep buildings healthier and safer.
- Increase Ventilation and Clean Filtration Systems
Opening windows and allowing fresh air to move in and out of your space is a key step in improving air quality—just remember to investigate your surroundings and be aware of the quality of outdoor air you are exposed to. Running fans, like bathroom or kitchen rangehood fans, that vent to the outdoors can also help circulate cleaner air.
Beyond that, according to the EPA, “...operating window or attic fans, when the weather permits, or running a window air conditioner with the vent control open increases the outdoor ventilation rate.”
On that note, it is important to clean and change all filters regularly including furnace filters (as typical HVAC systems do not use indoor/outdoor air filtration cycles), bathroom fan filters and vents, range hood filters and dryer filters. Even regular cleaning of your air ducts can help to remove dust and dander that builds up over time.
Beyond improving air quality, increased ventilation and regular cleaning and replacement of filters can help stop the spread of germs—an all too important step in keeping employees and businesses up and running.
- Control Humidity and Prevent Mold
According to WebMD “Dust mites and mold love moisture. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% helps keep them and other allergens under control. A dehumidifier (and air conditioner during summer months) helps reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively controls allergens...”
Controlling humidity and maintaining sources where water may be leaking—any plumbing or outdoor water sources—is vital to making sure mold does not start to grow in your building. Keeping water cleaned up and rooms dry is key.
- Purchase Natural Products and Add Plants to Your Environment
On top of routine cleaning, allowing fresh air into your building and controlling humidity levels, there are other simple ways to help keep your air clean.
Buy cleaning and personal products made from all-natural sources, eliminate, or cut back on the use of aerosol cans, and add more plants to your space—as they act as natural air purifiers.
For more detailed information on indoor air quality download our guide: Air Quality 101 or talk to an expert that can work with you on improving your indoor air quality through floor cleaning. Schedule a meeting with one of our equipment specialists today.