Recently, there’s been a growth in interest and concern regarding the quality of indoor air. At home, people are buying devices to test air quality and purify their indoor air. In commercial spaces like offices and gyms, property owners are implementing indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring systems and optimizing their ventilation systems to help improve IAQ.
But is all this really necessary? Why do we need monitoring systems for indoor air and do the statistics really point to poor indoor air quality causing health problems?
This article explores how IAQ monitoring, management, and improvement can help to provide safer and healthier working and living environments, and repel unwanted health issues that are linked to indoor air pollutants.
How to monitor indoor air quality
To effectively monitor the quality of indoor air, systems are used to measure and analyze things like pollutants, temperature, and humidity of the air. The purpose of these indoor air quality testing procedures is to identify air quality that could present as a health hazard. There are several companies that offer air quality monitoring products that continually assess the quality of the indoor air, providing vital insights on areas needing improvement.
The technology includes various sensors and data loggers, which help measure pollutant levels, including carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
For external air quality monitoring, the Air Quality Index (AQI) provides detailed information on air quality and the impact it has on businesses, with the index ranking air quality from ‘good’ all the way through to ‘hazardous’. The US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests that people check the AQI before making plans to go outdoors. However, for spaces indoors, it is up to individual homeowners, landlords, tenants, employees and property managers to decide which systems to use to check the air quality.
Why do you need an indoor air quality tester?
There are many reasons to invest in a device to test indoor air quality, and ultimately, it all comes down to poor air quality impacting people’s health and businesses negatively. Here are three reasons why indoor air quality needs to be tested.
Poor indoor air quality is affecting people’s health
The results are in: indoor air pollution is frequently and consistently recognized as one of the highest environmental risks to public health. Each year, 3.8 million people around the world lose their lives because of air pollution-related illnesses. Numerous scientific studies show that child mortality rates rise as a direct result of increases in air pollution.
Millions of people suffer from respiratory illnesses that are exacerbated by poor indoor air quality. The list of ailments consists of asthma, cancer, and lung problems, including respiratory inflammation. The US EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency) also recognizes that poor IAQ can cause irritation to the nose, eyes and throat, and an assortment of other health upsets including fatigue, dizziness and headaches. There are also scientific reports that suggest air pollution is bad for the brain too.
Ultimately, testing needs to take place to identify these harmful pollutants and stop further illnesses and deaths caused by poor quality air.
“The link between some common indoor air pollutants (e.g., radon, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, Legionella bacterium) and health effects is very well established.” US EPA
As an employer, property owner or manager, optimizing indoor air quality may be in your business’s best interest
It seems that many office workers are starting to become aware of the impact of poor IAQ on their health. They also are starting to believe that they might become unwell from poor IAQ at their workplace. One survey found that 24% reported problems with air quality in their workplace, and 20% believed that poor IAQ was negatively impacting their ability to perform at their job. In a separate study, 53% of hybrid workers expressed concern that poor air quality at work would negatively impact their health and also would increase their chances of contracting a cold or flu virus.
Far from dismissing a grumbling proportion of their workforce, business owners, property managers and any key decision-maker who is aware of how poor IAQ affects performance, may wish to take the matter seriously. Sick building syndrome (SBS) is the phenomenon of people entering a building, experiencing a host of similar symptoms, and then when exiting the building, the symptoms disappear or significantly diminish. This indicates that something about the building is causing illnesses, and it’s easy to identify low air quality as the culprit.
From a business perspective, at best, these symptoms can cause minor irritance, at worst, they could create a financial cost for the business. These symptoms can contribute towards sick leave, or could result in the prolonged illness or death of an employee, and could put the business at risk of lawsuits. Each year in the UK, 3 million sick days are taken on account of employees becoming ill from air pollution, or needing to take leave to care for their children who are unwell due to air pollution. A report in 2020 suggested that the UK economy could benefit from a €1.78 billion boost–the equivalent of $1.79 billion today—if it were to meet air quality targets set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A growing body of regulations are making regular indoor air quality testing obligatory
Regulations around the world, including in the US, are also recognizing the danger of poor IAQ and many new buildings will have to respect new requirements for both monitoring and actively reducing pollutants such as CO2. These new regulations now obligate facility managers and property owners to take proactive steps to provide the necessary tools for monitoring indoor air quality.
How to improve indoor air quality
Good air quality is considered to be the result of a well ventilated area, which means that there is regular introduction and distribution of clean or purified air. There should also be low to no presence of various air pollutants (mold, bacteria, viruses, and other VOCs). There should also be good management of the temperature and humidity level via an HVAC unit. Controlling temperature and humidity helps with keeping the environment comfortable, however well maintained HVAC systems can also contribute to better air quality too.
A vital tool for improving air quality indoors is an air purification system. Some systems are standalone and are quite large, whereas others, like the TADIRAN AIROW 3™ are much smaller add-on devices that attach to HVAC units.
Air purification is the process of combating air pollutants to neutralize or remove them from the air and consequently purify the air. It is not to be confused with air ventilation (the moving or cycling of air from one space to another). There are several different types of air purification devices that operate slightly differently. The TADIRAN AIROW 3™ uses hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), a naturally occurring element, to neutralize harmful pollutants. The device can greatly reduce the presence of pathogens like mold spores, which are often invisible to the naked eye and can be the cause of recurrent mold infestations in home and office spaces.
Invest in an indoor air quality system
Proper indoor air quality management starts with a good IAQ system in place. In commercial settings, there are multiple reasons for implementing proper monitoring systems. New regulations mean that more and more buildings will have to provide IAQ testing and monitoring tools so that SBS can be prevented and sources of low air quality can be identified and quickly rectified. A growing body of evidence shows the financial impact of poor IAQ on employee health and consequently on business performance and costs. With the help of these systems, it will be so much easier to identify areas within commercial buildings that need improved ventilation, more frequent HVAC maintenance, or the addition of an air purification system like theTADIRAN AIROW 3™ to help improve air quality.