Every breath counts
Why air quality matters
Importance of indoor air quality
The air we breathe has a deep effect on our wellbeing even if we do not see, hear, or taste it. We spend 80–90 % of our time indoors. We work indoors, our kids attend school or daycare indoors and we spend most of our free time indoors, at home and on our hobbies or cultural activities. The levels of indoor air pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels, and in some cases these levels can exceed 100 times that of outdoor levels of the same pollutants.
Poor air quality is a silent killer
Air pollution is one of main environmental risks to human health globally, with one in nine deaths linked to poor indoor or outdoor air quality. Approximately 7 million people die prematurely due to air pollution each year. The health effects may range from respiratory infections to increased risk of heart and lung diseases to premature death. Roughly half of these problems are caused by indoor air quality and the other half by outdoor air quality.
What we do affects air quality
Most people cannot tell whether indoor air quality is poor. For the same reason, most of us don´t realize that some of our daily activities degrade indoor air quality.
When indoor air quality is inferior, for example, when the indoor air temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels are less than optimal, people start to feel discomfort and their productivity, focus, learning ability and decision making capabilities decrease. Cold temperature and low relative humidity can also increase the transmission of many respiratory viruses.
Variety of simple and commonsense measures may help in preventing and solving many indoor air problems. Evidence shows that realizing the current level of indoor air quality motivates people to alter their behavior and perform activities to improve air quality.
Nine vital senses of air quality
Too humid air is a risk to both human health and building materials, structures and building contents. If the air is too humid, the risks of microbe growth and moisture damage increase. Dry air can in turn irritate airways, eyes and throat. Also the risk of infections increases.
Both too low and too high room temperatures hamper human comfort and can cause health problems and building damage. Too warm room air can increase respiratory symptoms and cause a feeling of dryness making comfort and productivity decline. Too cold air increases humidity and risk of exposing buildings to moisture condensation and mold damage.
Too high levels of carbon dioxide impair mental performance and causes health symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and nausea. Human cognitive function can decline by 15 percent when indoor CO₂ reaches 945 parts per million (ppm) and crashes by 50 percent when indoor CO₂ level reaches 1400 ppm.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include a variety of chemicals that can cause health symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, nausea and skin problems. Long-term exposure may also cause damage to the liver, kidneys or central nervous system.
Particulate matter (PM) contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Some particles can get deep into your lungs and some may get into your bloodstream. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest risk to health and are linked to a variety of health problems, including premature death, asthma and increased respiratory symptoms.
OTHER IMPACTING FACTORS
Auditory comfort conditions consist of factors such as sound and noise. Too noisy environment disturbs human concentration and sleep, decreases comfort and increases stress.
Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a range of health problems ranging from stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss.
Visual conditions consist of light, lighting, color and view. Sight is our most important sense and light is a prerequisite for human activity, seeing, thinking and general comfort. Too dark or too bright a light impacts human comfort and productivity negatively.
Indoor air pressure will be either negative or positive, depending on the air-tightness of the building and other forces such as wind, exhaust loads and amount of make-up air. Even relatively small changes in air flow rates and pressure differences can have noticeable effects on the parameters of indoor air quality and building structural health.
Motion can be used to detect possible misuse activity or theft of devices installed in buildings. Motion detection can also be utilized in alarming any detected abnormalities that occur indoors.