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Indoor Air Quality: What Pollutes our Air?

18 December 2019

Bethan Stones headshot

Bethan Stones

Group Marketing Manager

Indoor Air Pollution

According to Opinium, the average Brit spends around 22 hours indoors. Therefore it is important to understand the quality of the air we are inhaling, the effects of the quality of the air and what can be done to prevent poor air quality.

What causes indoor air pollution?

There are many factors that are associated to poor air quality, ranging from how you heat your home, how you cook, inadequate ventilation due to not bringing a satisfactory amount of outdoor air in to weaken emissions from indoor sources, dampness, chemicals, materials, as well as humidity increasing concentration of various pollutants. Other indoor air pollution sources that release gases into the atmosphere are the primary causes of indoor air quality issues, including:

  • Tobacco products;
  • Products relating to personal care or hobbies;
  • Furnishings;
  • Outdoor sources; pesticides, outdoor air pollution.

What are the effects of poor indoor air quality?

Immediate Effects

Some health effects have a high chance of being noticeable instantly after a single exposure to pollution. These effects may include:

  • Irritation of eyes, nose and throat;
  • Headaches;
  • Dizziness;
  • Fatigue.

Although these effects are not life-threatening, it is important to be attentive. These are usually short-term and are commonly treatable by restricting exposure to sources of pollution. The likeliness of immediate reactions relies on different factors, including age and previous medical conditions.

Long-Term Effects

Other effects may not be as instant, these may not be noticeable until years after exposure to poor air quality. The more long-term effects may include:

  • Respiratory diseases;
  • Heart disease;
  • Cancer.

These long-term effects are much more serious and need to be strictly treated, if not they can be severely devastating, even fatal.

What are the varieties of air pollution?

1. Particulate Matter (PM) is a complex mixture of solids and liquids. Various particles such as dust, soot, dirt or smoke are visible enough to see with our naked eye. However, the smaller particles are the most damaging ones, aka PM10and PM2.5. PM10 relates to particles with a diameter less than 10 microns, whereas PM2.5 refers to particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns, also known as fine particles. The smallest particles are known as ultrafine particles, which are smaller than 0.1 micron in diameter.

2. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is one of a group of highly reactive gases and are a dominating component of urban air pollution.

3. Ozone (O3) is highly reactive gas which is composed of three different atoms of oxygen which are formed when certain gases react under the action of sunlight.

Who can poor indoor air quality affect?

Although we are all at risk for indoor air pollution, some of us may be more vulnerable than others. Unfortunately, those who suffer from COPD, asthma or bronchiectasis are much more likely to be affected by poor air quality. Living with a lung condition may result in one spending more time indoors. This meaning one has more contact with factors that pollute the air, such as cleaning materials, dampness and cigarette smoke.

Children are also highly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality as their lungs are yet to be fully developed. With their smaller airways, inflammation caused by pollution can result in the airway narrowing more easily.

How can we prevent poor air quality?

Envirocare are able to offer an in-depth report which assess and provides recommendations on how to reduce distress whilst assisting with improving working conditions that are more advantageous for optimal productivity and lessening absenteeism.

Envirocare offers complete investigations into a variety of environments to monitor:

  • Temperature and humidity;
  • Ventilation;
  • Carbon dioxide & ozone levels;
  • Dust composition and allergen potential;
  • Odour problems;
  • Quantities of various indoor pollutants;
  • Inadequate lighting quality and levels.

Find out more information about our Occupational Hygiene Services.