Did you know that indoor air pollution can actually be worse than outdoor pollution? Not only can outdoor pollutants be brought inside -- as people move in and out of the space -- but there are also many indoor pollution sources.
For example, indoor cleaning products like air fresheners and cleaning solvents often produce aerosols that can irritate the respiratory system if inhaled. Paint usually contains Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Mold lurks in damp corners of bathrooms and other poorly ventilated areas. Dust accumulates on surfaces and is kicked up into the air. Even your building’s heating, cooling, and humidification systems themselves can introduce pollutants into the air if they are not properly cleaned and maintained (EPA).
Indoors, these pollutants cannot circulate and dissipate in the same way that they can outdoors. In the absence of proper source control, ventilation, and filtration, pollutants accumulate to levels that can literally make people sick. There’s even a term for this, recognized by all major health organizations in the US: Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).
8 Best Practices to Improve Indoor Air Quality
The EPA recommends a 3-pronged approach to improving indoor air quality: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners. Here are a few practical ways to improve the indoor air quality in your building by tackling it from all three angles:
Source control means fixing the root causes of indoor air pollution. While ventilation is a critical aspect of maintaining healthy indoor air (see next section), resolving the source of pollution can help you save energy costs by reducing the amount of ventilation needed to achieve the desired indoor air quality (IAQ). Here are a few examples:
1. Fix Underlying Causes of Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew thrive where there is a lot of moisture and little airflow, like bathrooms, kitchens, and storage areas. Once mold exists, it spreads quickly, and if mold spores enter the air, they can quickly make occupants sick. Fixing mold problems means first eradicating it and then preventing recurrence. Mold prevention strategies include reducing moisture by fixing plumbing leaks, running exhaust fans, and using dehumidifiers in areas at high risk for mold growth (Home Depot). Regular deep cleaning can also help keep mold and mildew at bay.
2. Seal Materials Containing Asbestos
While asbestos is no longer used in building construction, it is still present in many older buildings constructed before the 1980s. If your building has materials that contain asbestos, have them professionally sealed to reduce the risks associated with asbestos exposure.
3. Maintain Proper Humidity Levels
Another common source of mold is high humidity levels. Condensation on windows and cold surfaces in the winter is one sign that your building isn’t properly weatherized, and humidity levels may be too high. However, keep in mind that low humidity levels can also be harmful to occupant health, with dry air known to cause dry skin, itchy eyes, and sinus irritation. Weatherize your building to keep humidity levels comfortable while preventing mold and bacteria growth (EPA).
4. Limit the Use of Toxic Cleaning Products
Cleaning products with strong fragrances might seem attractive because they can quickly mask odors, giving the impression of cleanliness. However, frequent use of these products introduces irritating compounds into the air without actually fixing the source of the problem. To improve indoor air quality, limit air fresheners and toxic cleaning products and instead choose environmentally-friendly cleaning methods that safely eliminate contaminants.
Ventilation enables air to circulate effectively throughout a space and ensures that fresh air is regularly introduced to avoid stale air concentrated with harmful pollutants. The following are a few ways to improve ventilation.
5. Open Windows to Let Fresh Air In
Introducing fresh air by opening doors and windows is a quick way to improve airflow and dissipate indoor air pollutants to keep them from concentrating on high levels. This is also known as natural ventilation. It will bring in outdoor contaminants like pollen and other allergens, which is why this shouldn’t be your only tactic for improving indoor air quality. Leverage natural ventilation in combination with source control, air filtration, and mechanical ventilation to achieve the best results.
6. Regularly Clean and Maintain Your HVAC System
Your HVAC system is key to circulate air throughout your building and filtering contaminants efficiently. However, it must be cleaned and maintained regularly to remove accumulated dust and debris from ductwork and keep it running smoothly.
Air cleaners are an essential resource in your indoor air quality toolbelt. They help circulate air while filtering out airborne contaminants.
7. Use Air Purifiers
Air purifiers are a great way to filter out dust and allergens from the air. The key is to choose air purifiers that can frequently recirculate the air within a given room, so check to ensure the square footage coverage works for your space. It’s also important to remember that air purifiers only remove what’s already in the air; they can’t remove dust and debris that has settled on surfaces. In addition, filters should be changed frequently to maintain air purifier efficiency and effectiveness.
8. Vacuum the Right Way (With a HEPA Filter)
Your carpets are your building’s number one air filter, but they can quickly become saturated with dust and debris, reducing their effectiveness. Cleaning floors daily with a vacuum with HEPA filtration will lift 99.9% of debris and keep it trapped in the filter, rather than kicking it back into the air like a non-HEPA vacuum. A cleaning robot like Whiz from SoftBank Robotics can automate this process for you, maintaining pristine carpets and cleaner, healthier air with daily cleaning.
Contact SoftBank Robotics today to learn how a cleaning robot like Whiz can bring your building’s health and safety to the next level.