Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air inside buildings, structures, and enclosed areas as it affects occupants’ health and comfort. It refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures. Indoor air quality is known to have an impact on building inhabitants’ health, comfort, and well-being. Poor indoor air quality has been related to sick building syndrome, decreased productivity, and poor learning outcomes in schools.
Poor indoor air quality can have a wide range of negative impacts on human health, from minor irritations to serious respiratory problems and chronic diseases. Indoor air contaminants include secondhand tobacco smoke, radon, molds and other allergens, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, legionella and other bacteria, asbestos fibers, carbon dioxide, ozone, and particles. Indoor air quality can be improved primarily by source control, filtration, and the use of ventilation to dilute toxins.
Several factors contribute to indoor air quality, including:
- Airborne pollutants: These include particulate matter (such as dust, pollen, and smoke), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from products like paints, cleaning agents, and furniture, as well as gases like carbon monoxide and radon.
- Humidity levels: Excessive humidity can promote the growth of mold, mildew, and dust mites, while low humidity can cause respiratory discomfort and dryness of mucous membranes.
- Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining good indoor air quality by removing pollutants and replenishing indoor air with fresh outdoor air. Inadequate ventilation can lead to the buildup of indoor pollutants.
- Building materials and furnishings: Some building materials and furnishings may release harmful chemicals over time, contributing to indoor air pollution. Examples include formaldehyde emissions from pressed wood products and flame retardants from furniture.
- Occupant activities: Activities such as cooking, smoking, and using household cleaners can introduce pollutants into the indoor environment.
Maintaining high indoor air quality is critical for improving the health and well-being of building inhabitants. Indoor air quality can be improved through optimal ventilation design, the use of low-emission building materials and furnishings, frequent cleaning and maintenance to prevent dust and mold, and the implementation of indoor air quality monitoring systems to identify and solve any issues as soon as possible.