What Is Indoor Air Quality?
Did you ever stop to think about what is in the air you breathe? Sometimes we talk about pollutants in the air from vehicle or factory exhaust. But what about the air indoors?
Indoor air quality (also called IAQ), is concerned with how good the air is in your building. Frequently when we talk about health and safety in the workplace, we pay a lot of attention to ensuring that all of our employees have the right protective gear and clothing. You might also be concerned with safety procedures for operating dangerous machinery or equipment.
Paying attention to the IAQ at work has now also become a major safety concern. Employers can reference OSHA guidelines to find out what good IAQ is, and what employers are expected to do about it.
What Can Affect Indoor Air Quality?
Your IAQ begins to suffer once pollutants get into the air. Pollutants come from all kinds of sources within your facility. The most dangerous pollutants come from chemicals, smoke or exhaust. Chemicals in the air may come from cleaners, pesticides or fumes from glues or other chemicals and compounds used in production. Smoke and exhaust are issues in facilities that may be running gas-powered machines indoors or have other combustible materials.
Your IAQ may also change depending on the materials around you. Do you have any asbestos on site? That could be a major contributor to poor or even dangerous air quality. This is also true if there are dangerous amounts of radon present, or if you have exposed lead paint. Another item to consider is mold. Molds release spores into the air that are harmful when breathed in. Mold tends to grow where there is excess moisture, which could be in your walls, ceilings, floors or ducts.
Are you worried about the air quality in your facility? Symptoms of poor IAQ include:
- Watery Eyes
Poor IAQ can cause:
- Respiratory Infections
- Breathing Problems
- Allergic Reaction
- Lung Disease
- Heart or Kidney Disease
How Can I Improve Indoor Air Quality?
The primary way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate pollutants before they affect the air. This might mean choosing different cleaning products that don’t have harsh chemicals. It could also mean eradicating certain pollutants from your facility completely. That could be the removal of asbestos or mold remediation.
If you cannot eliminate or eradicate the pollutant, then the next method to improving IAQ is ensuring you have proper ventilation by circulating outdoor air inside. If your building has windows that open—use them! Turning on air-circulating fans can help to draw more air inside, which can cycle clean air indoors more efficiently.
If your facility does not have outdoor-opening windows (as many office buildings do not) or if you are running a heater or air conditioner which prevents you from circulating air from the outside, you will have to use air filters. Your HVAC system should have air filters built into the design. Make sure you clean or replace them on a regular basis. You can also install air cleaners or fume extractors to remove pollutants in the air before they become an issue. Make sure the air cleaner you choose is rated for the amount of space it is covering; all air cleaners should have a high circulation rate to be the most effective.
You Are What You Breathe
Having good indoor air quality is important for everyone. Pollutants in the air can get into your body and cause several health concerns. It can affect your breathing and allergies. Harsh pollutants can cause irritation, infection or worse. Good IAQ can be achieved through removing potential hazards and pollutants, and ensuring your building is getting proper ventilation. Bringing in fresh, clean, outdoor air is the best way to make sure that your indoor air is safe and clean. Remember—you are what you breathe!
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.