Have you been feeling tired or run down lately? Do you have a cold you can’t seem to get over, unexplained itchiness, dizziness or headaches that seem to mysteriously come and go? If you are a business owner or manager, have your employees been complaining about these or similar types of ailments?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions you may have a “sick” building on your hands. In other words noxious indoor air pollution may be causing these symptoms to manifest, putting your family members or your workers in harm’s way whenever they enter your home or place of business.
What Causes Indoor Air Pollution?
When interior air goes bad there are two possible reasons. First, you may have an excess of pollutants contaminating your air space, such as dust particles, chemical traces, ozone emissions, fumes from external sources (nearby factories, highways, etc.), airborne bacteria or mold and fungi spores. Second, your home or business space may be poorly ventilated and air circulation may be inhibited as a result.
Of course in many cases—maybe even in most cases—excessive indoor air pollution is caused by a combination of both factors.
When air quality is compromised and ventilation can’t keep up everyone who lives or works in that space is caught in the crosshairs, with no possibility of escape. The average human being spends about 90 percent of his or her time indoors, so when the places we occupy the most are compromised by air pollution it can create quite the sticky wicket.
Ironically, one frequent cause of indoor air pollution is sustainable building practice. We would assume green construction standards are automatically health-promoting, but in the name of energy conservation modern structures are built to be as airtight as possible and this requires more ventilation than is sometimes included.
What Can Be Done?
If indoor air pollution is caused by poor ventilation, partially or in whole, improving your ventilation is essential. This may mean putting in more windows, installing more fans ( ceiling fans, vent fans or whole-house fans), knocking down walls or removing doors that inhibit air flow and so on.
Commercial enterprises often install indoor air quality (IAQ) monitoring systems that can help them detect problems and devise solutions before “sick building syndrome” becomes a real problem.
In homes HVAC systems play a big role in determining air quality. To improve your system’s performance, you should:
- Have it checked and professionally cleaned once or twice a year.
- Replace your system’s air filter monthly.
- When you choose a new filter, get one with a MERV rating of 11 or greater (it will remove 80 percent or more of even the tiniest particles).
- Think about adding an ultraviolet lamp to your HVAC system to eliminate bacteria, viruses and other microbial nasties that can circulate far and wide through your ductwork.
You Need a Breath of Fresh Air
Indoor air pollution can and will make you sick. It may be impossible to eliminate it entirely, but with a proactive approach you can make substantial improvements in the breathability of your home or business space.
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