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What is Indoor Air Quality?

What is Indoor Air Quality?
12 May 2021
 

Indoor Air Quality has been at the front of our minds as we navigate through a global pandemic, and we have learned that effective air distribution can minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, indoor and outdoor air pollution is the most urgent environmental health crisis in the world. The importance of air quality and adequate ventilation in the COVID-19 response has also been widely documented, with ventilation measures considered the most vital engineering mechanisms in infection control within buildings. Research from both REHA and CIBSE shows that adequate ventilation and effective air distribution can minimise the risk of cross-infection from 1.5 metres onward.

 

What Does IAQ Stand For?

 

IAQ stands for Indoor Air Quality, and is broadly defined as the air quality in and around buildings. It usually relates to the health and wellbeing of people using, living or working in a building.

 

Image

 

What is Indoor Air Pollution?

 

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology defines indoor air pollution as a mixture of: 

 

  • Pollutants generated inside a building from building materials, furniture and furnishings, or by activities such as cooking, heating, smoking and use of paints, varnishes, cleaning products, air fresheners, etc. 
  • Pollutants generated outside a building (by industrial processes, traffic emissions, etc.) that migrate indoors through windows or other means of ventilation.
  • Natural radon gas that enters buildings from the ground.

 

office interior

Picture: a photograph of a spacious office interior

 

What are the Causes of Indoor Air Problems?

 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states the primary causes of poor indoor air quality as:

 

  • Fuel-burning combustion appliances
  • Tobacco products
  • Building materials and furnishings as diverse as: deteriorated asbestos-containing insulation, newly installed flooring, upholstery or carpet, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products
  • Products for cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies
  • Central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices
  • Excess moisture
  • Outdoor sources such as radon and pesticides

 

Why is Indoor Air Quality Important in the Fight Against COVID-19?

 

It is known that COVID-19 is highly infectious and that there is an increased risk of transmission through the air especially in enclosed spaces. The smaller droplets from an infected person can travel further inside, thus increasing the risk of infecting others. To minimise that risk and that of transmission, correct ventilation becomes crucial.

Therefore, increasing flow rates of fresh outside air and avoiding re-circulation and transfer of air from one room to another are recommended for COVID-safe environments.

Several air quality treatments promise to banish coronavirus from buildings. Most of these use high output UVC light technology, drawing in air, passing it through the air through a high output UVC energy field, deactivating these microbes and delivering clean air back into the facility.

Picture: a photograph of people sitting at tables and chairs indoors, the view is from above

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 12 May 2021

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