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What Are The Major Indoor Air Pollutants?


By EnviroVent Mar 05, 2020

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality within and around buildings and structures. IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort and well-being of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to sick building syndrome, asthma, headaches, reduced productivity and impaired learning in schools. Therefore, the effect of not having good indoor air quality in the home is dramatic but what are the major indoor air pollutants?

It is now widely known of the damaging affects of pollution in the air outdoors caused by carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from vehicles and factories. However, the air inside our homes can be up to 5 times more polluted than the air outdoors. The majority of people recognise the health concerns around outdoor air pollution, but few people consider the potential dangers around the exposure to poor indoor air quality despite it having the same negative health effects. 

The Major Indoor Air Pollutants Are

Damp and Mould: Inhaling mould fragments or spores can inflame the airways, causing nasal congestion, wheezing, chest tightness, coughing and throat irritation. Prolonged exposure to high levels of indoor dampness can reduce lung function and cause chronic health problems such as asthma. Living in damp conditions also exasperates any repository or dermatological conditions such as eczema.

Asbestos: Because of its fibre strength and heat resistance asbestos has been used in a variety of building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. Exposure to asbestos increases your risk of developing lung disease. That risk is made worse by smoking. In general, the greater the exposure to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing harmful health effects. Disease symptoms may take many years to develop following exposure.

Carbon Monoxide: Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Second-hand Smoke: Second-hand smoke is tobacco smoke which affects people other than the 'active' smoker. Second-hand tobacco smoke includes both a gaseous and a particulate phase, with particular hazards arising from levels of carbon monoxide (as indicated below) and very small particulates (fine particular matter at especially PM2.5 size, and PM10) which get into the bronchioles in the lung.

Radon: Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas. It is formed by the radioactive decay of the small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils. Radioactive elements decay and emit radiation. Any exposure to this type of radiation is a risk to health - radiation is a form of energy and can cause damage in living tissues increasing the risk of cancer.

Volatile Organic Compounds: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are airborne pollutants found lurking in the air inside our homes. As the word ‘Volatile’ indicates, these airborne pollutants do not contribute to the health of the household, in fact they can play havoc with your health. VOCs are irritants which affect some people more than others, they can cause allergic reactions, headaches, tiredness, respiratory problems and other illnesses. Products which contain VOC’s; aerosols, cleaning products, dry cleaning, automotive products, hobby supplies and candles.

There are measures to take in regard to combatting these harmful indoor air pollutants. If you find something in your home that you suspect is asbestos, don’t touch it. Even if the material is in good condition, the best option is to leave it alone. If the material appears damaged or future activities could disturb it, contact a trained and accredited asbestos professional. Limit access to the area until a professional can confirm the presence of asbestos. The best way to avoid asbestos exposure is to be knowledgeable about the asbestos materials in your home, including their locations and current condition.

Your home should always have a carbon monoxide detector in it, along with a smoke alarm and you should regularly test to ensure your detector is working as this is the only indicator of carbon monoxide in the home. Additionally, it’s no secret that smoking and therefore second-hand smoke is very dangerous to an occupant’s health. If the smoker of the house does not want to give up, then they should smoke outside about a meter away from the property with the property’s windows and doors closed.

Radon gas is only prevalent in certain areas, if you are concerned the area you live in is affected, then check out Public Health England’s interactive map. This map shows through darker colours which areas in the country are most affected. If your area falls under one of these darker coloured sections, then you should order a radon testing kit.

When looking at VOC’s you can look to use less harsher cleaner materials and using less candles, but if you don’t want to give up any of your cleaning products or your favourite candles, then you should look towards ventilation. Ventilation is the intentional introduction of outdoor air into a space and is mainly used to control indoor air quality by diluting and displacing indoor pollutants; it can also be used for purposes of thermal comfort or dehumidification.

Furthermore, ventilation is an effective method in combatting damp and mould. Damp and mould often stem from issues with condensation in a property and if you can stop condensation you can stop the multitude of problems that go alongside it. The best solution for condensation is proper ventilation, in order to vent condensation your home needs to have an adequate air flow and kept at a good temperature. When a room gets to a certain temperature, humidity gathers creating moisture in the air. If this excess moisture is not ventilated it will cause condensation.  

Not only does ventilation combat VOC’s, damp, mould, condensation and with small amounts of radon but it improves the overall atmosphere of your home. An effective ventilation system can filter out larger particles, such as pollen and other allergy triggers like dust mites, preventing them from entering the home. Having a ventilation system in place means there’s no need to open the window, which can cause a problem for those with pollen allergies.

Some sufferers of seasonal health conditions, such as hay fever and pollen allergies, have noticed improvements in their condition when an effective ventilation system is fitted. A constant supply of filtered fresh air entering the home can help to control pollutants in the indoor atmosphere.

EnviroVent has a ventilation system for every kind of home, whether it be the smallest apartment, bungalow, house or a major building project. With a wide range of energy efficient and innovative ventilation systems, you can be assured that your indoor air quality will be dramatically improved, whilst having a positive effect on your health and your home. Our condensation control vents, are designed to minimise if not eliminate condensation.