Is the indoor environment making you sick?
IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) has been a rising concern in recent years from the health, hygiene, and productivity viewpoints. Individuals are exposed to a number of contaminants or allergens on a continuous basis. Especially within the indoor environment. These contaminants /allergens can cause various ailments, allergies, and diseases.
Allergens are antigens that produce an altered and accelerated reaction in susceptible individuals. Mainly the exposure to the allergens happens due to inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact with the allergen. How our bodies respond to these allergens is what defines our immunity to the antigens. It is the immune systems job to recognize and alleviate these antigens before they activate and cause harm. Immunity varies from individual to individual. The symptom appears in a susceptible individual depending on the immune response, genetic factors, and other environmental conditions. Factors such as age, immunocompromised status, and previous exposure to elements influence the bodies’ ability to deal with the foreign contaminants.
Common Indoor Allergens
Some of the commonly and frequently reported allergens of the indoor environment include various particulates, pollen grains, mold spores, fibers, dust-mite and other plant and animal borne materials etc. It has been observed that biologically originated entities proliferate in closed environments depending upon the ability of food material (organic compounds), temperature, relative humidity, and other factors such as availability of light etc. However, intrusion of allergens into the home or workplace many a times comes from the outdoor environment. Proper identification and quantification is necessary to properly address the allergens/contaminant related issues in indoor environments.
What can be Done to Optimize the Indoor Environment?
In the absence of universally accepted practices to assess the indoor environment, a few basic approaches are beneficial for optimizing IAQ by preventing and managing indoor contaminants/allergens.
It is encouraged to properly manage building ventilation, relative humidity and temperature under the threshold (30-60% and 68-79°F, respectively). It is also worth mentioning that smoking inside, off-gassing from household appliances/furniture and other building products may adversely affect the indoor environment. Consider testing your indoor environment using do-it-yourself test kits for an initial screening. If those results are positive for indoor contaminants, then a building health evaluation for occupancy needs to be undertaken. For maintaining a good environmental air quality, smart air purification devices can be used after proper remediation services have been performed.