Poor Indoor Air Quality
There is a huge amount in the news at the moment about outdoor air pollution and reducing it with low emission vehicles and the introduction of ultra-low emissions zones – but what about indoor air quality? Why is it so important and what can be done to monitor it?
Poor air quality and pollution is something that we are all aware of but as we cannot see it, it’s not at the top of our priorities and it’s not always clear how polluted the air is.
Poor indoor air quality, particularly in buildings where there is a high density of people such as offices, hospitals and schools, can have huge negative effects on a person’s wellbeing.
Monitoring Indoor Air Quality
Air quality sensors have the ability to monitor the indoor air, sensors measure in real time the level of pollutants in the air and can monitor important environmental and pollutant parameters.
We’ve highlighted some of the factors that can affect indoor air quality and gone into a little bit more information on why it is important to monitor them.
An obvious one and important for reasons of comfort, but also because it can have a direct influence on the brain’s cognitive function. Research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory indicates that performance declines by 2% for each degree above 25°C and by 4.7% for each degree below 21°C.
Humidity (% RH)
The ideal range for humidity is around 45% – 55%. Low humidity can cause dry eyes, sore or itchy throat and dry skin. High humidity creates ideal conditions for the development of mould and other allergens.
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
High levels of NO2 can severely affect our health, inflaming the airways in our lungs and, prolonged exposure can affect how well our lungs work.
Particulate matter (PM2.5)
This refers to invisible solid or liquid particulates in the air smaller than 2.5 microns. Depending on the source, these particulates can be toxic and / or carcinogenic.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
CO2 is naturally present in fresh air at a concentration of 0.03 – 0.045%. Indoors, the primary source of CO2 is from people, if a crowded indoor space is not adequately ventilated, carbon dioxide can build up to levels where people start to feel sleepy, lethargic, dizzy, can have difficulty concentrating and cause headaches.
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous colourless gas that has no smell or taste. Breathing it in can make you unwell.
Ozone is not generally emitted directly into the atmosphere, but it is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the present of sunlight. Breathing in ozone can make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously and cause coughing and sore or itchy throat.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds are a group of chemical compounds some odourless, other pungent, given off by a number of indoor sources. VOC’s can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness and skin problems.
Managing Indoor Air Quality
All of these pollutants and environmental factors can often be found present naturally in the air, but when the concentrations found reach a dangerously high level, these can cause unhealthy workplaces.
By monitoring indoor air quality, you have the ability to see whether or not these pollutants can be found in the air and how you can manage them. Active living walls are a great way of transforming the air you breathe; they can reduce harmful chemicals; optimise humidity and naturalise the indoor air.