On contemplating how most people go about their everyday lives in the modern-day – from waking up, hitting the gym and heading to work to going back home, it is easy to see that we spend the majority of our lives indoors. Studies show that most humans spend as much as 90% of their lives indoors. This raises questions about the state of our indoor environments and the quality of the air that we breathe while we’re indoors, be it at work, at home, in a restaurant, a cafe, a mall, or elsewhere.
Along with second-hand cigarette smoke, furnaces, hearths, open fireplaces, and stoves that run on solid fuels are some of the biggest indoor air pollution causing agents. These cause the build-up of toxic gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, as well as other particulate matter in indoor environments, breathing which on a regular basis results in severe respiratory issues and illnesses. According to the most recent WHO (World Health Organization) estimates, about 4.3 million die from indoor air pollution each year across the globe. While the majority of these people die from strokes, others die from ischaemic heart disease (tissue-related dysfunctions), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (which severely damages the lungs and deteriorates its ability to take in air), pneumonia, and various types of cancers and lung diseases.
Indoor Air Pollution – No More A Localized Issue
Most people are under the impression that indoor air quality – IAQ is only a matter of concern for those living in developing countries, owing to the lack of pollution control, widespread dependence on charcoal, and other biomass fuels including wood, and animal waste (which are known to cause chronic pulmonary ailments, severe cancers, and tuberculosis). While this is true to a large extent, developed countries also suffer from poor indoor air quality. Indoor air quality is not a localized problem but a global one that is not paid much attention to. With people spending more of their time indoors, the repercussions of poor indoor air quality are increasingly being felt more than ever before. Numerous studies have proven that poor indoor air quality and pollution has a direct bearing on morbidity rates.
Some of the biggest cities in the world, including Paris, London, and New York City, are facing worsening indoor air quality issues. The real estate boom which has caused prices to skyrocket has resulted in people settling for really small, insular homes just to live within city limits. These homes, often single-room apartments, have no ventilation whatsoever. With costs for renovation being so high, most of these homes are aging and decrepit structures that hamper the quality of air indoors. Such deteriorating structures often have problems with asbestos as well as widespread mold, mildew, and other fungal infestations. This problem has become so rampant in these big cities that a new term – SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) has been coined to describe this very issue. People affected by the Sick Building Syndrome are often misdiagnosed as having common colds or the flu, when in fact they suffer from deeper neurological, respiratory and dermatological issues that affect the body both physically and mentally.
The Connection Between Indoor & Outdoor Air Quality
The quality of the air in an indoor space is directly connected to the quality of the air outside it. In fact, indoor air quality is oftentimes as much as five times as bad as that of the air quality outdoors. While ventilation plays a key role in enabling the swift airflow, allowing air to flow inside and outside seamlessly, improper filtration of the air coming inside can have drastic effects on indoor air quality. In places, without adequate ventilation, this problem is even worse, as the air that enters in lingers and moves around indoors instead of flowing out. This causes the buildup of pollution over time, resulting in the inhabitants marinating in such hazardous indoor environments.
Having a ventilation system doesn’t necessarily do much unless it is able to do a good job at filtering out every toxic pollutant and let in only pure air without any particular matter whatsoever. The lack of advancement in the air filtration technology used in most HVAC systems globally makes most HVAC solutions unreliable and completely inefficient. Nevertheless, the maintenance of these HVAC systems is crucial to avoid the clogging of their filters. Failing to carry out regular maintenance of these systems can result in a number of respiratory, allergy, and immune-system related issues.
Indoor Air Quality & Its Impact On Productivity & Efficiency
Companies have for a long time been seeking ways to improve the productivity of their employees by optimizing and making their offices as comfortable as possible. While most organizations focus on eliminating all possible sources of distractions by restricting noise, curbing access to sources of online entertainment, etc, many of them fail to take the quality of indoor air in their workplaces, into account. An experiment conducted by researchers from Harvard University focused on this very issue – the relation between the quality of indoor air in work environments and the productivity levels of employees working therein. The results were astounding. The experiment was carried out using two control groups. While one group consisted of employees working in an environment in which the levels of carbon monoxide, other common toxins, and particulate matter were drastically low, the other group consisted of employees in a completely uncontrolled environment.
Based on how both these sets of employees performed on the tasks that they were given, the researchers concluded that the set of employees in the first control group (who worked in an environment with very low levels of air pollution) exhibited far greater cognitive ability, mental acuity, problem-solving capacities, and overall teamwork than the employees in the other control group. This landmark study was a revelation in proving that indoor air pollution not just in workplaces and offices, but also in homes has a direct bearing on the way people in these environments tend to think, function, work, make decisions, and go about their day. Gateway Mechanical