17 Sep Indoor Air Quality – An Overview
Indoor Air Quality Control
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is the quality of the air in and around buildings and structures relating especially to health and comfort of the building residents or occupants.
Air pollution carries significant risks to health and the invisible pollutants inside our buildings can amplify the ill-effects with confined and poorly ventilated spaces, the types of fuels used for cooking and heating, second-hand tobacco smoke, over-crowdedness, emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from paint, rugs and other daily use items- all of which adds to the outside vehicular and industrial pollution. Unchecked indoor pollutants (bacteria, fungi, viruses and dust mites) lead to serious health problems like asthma, allergies complications, various respiratory infections, fatigue, reduced productivity and much more. Health effects from air pollution have even been manifested and experienced years later if not immediately after the exposure. Approximately 3.8 million people around the world die every year because of indoor air pollution.
What are the primary causes of Indoor Air Pollution?
Sources releasing gases into the air along with poor or inadequate or over-ventilation are the main causes as outdoor, fresh air is required to dilute the emissions from indoor sources. Moreover, high temperature and humidity increase the pollutants’ concentration. Some other sources include fuel-burning combustion appliances, excess moisture, inefficient HVAC systems, and outdoor sources like pesticides and rodents. Proper ventilation is actually an extension of environmental justice- that should be provided to all the people as per United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA).
This has been duly incorporated in the New York City’s statute of the Local Law 55 of 2018 also referred to as the “Asthma-Free Housing Act”. The bill mandates the prevention and removal of indoor health hazards, by the owners/landlords, that can facilitate asthmatic triggers along with promoting long term safety & success. The law stands applicable to buildings with three or more apartments, or to buildings of any size given the residents have asthma. Moreover, the law creates ways for the tenants to hold the landlord/owners entirely accountable. Tenants can do so by calling 311 to initiate an inspection of their space or they can request a referral from their doctor if they have been diagnosed with moderate, severe and/or persistent asthma. Tenants can further take to Housing Court of NYC if dissatisfied.
Most HVAC systems are not wired to automatically bring in fresh air making it essential to resort to opening windows and doors, running a window air conditioner with the vent control to increase ventilation rate. Shading can also successfully help regulate indoor temperature. The most effective way is the installation of advanced HVAC systems that have in-built features of infiltration as well as natural ventilation. Most are also energy efficient that aid heat recovery, mitigating the cost of cooling and heating the air according to the weather. Advanced HVAC systems take care of the temperature and humidity levels which further controls other contaminants. Among all contaminants, it is essential to control VOCs, carbon monoxide which is impossible to smell, taste or see but causes fatigue, chest pain & impaired vision, is a result of poorly maintained boilers or furnaces, or automobile exhaust from around the building space.
Particulate matter is yet another dangerous source which gravely effect people’s hearts and lungs upon inhalation. PM is generated by construction, burning of fossil fuels, fireplaces, cigarette smoking, among other activities. Sources can be controlled by installing a “low-VOC” carpet or moving contaminant producing equipment to a better ventilated space to aid dilution.
Although air cleaners are not generally designed to remove gaseous pollutants, they still are another popular method of handling indoor air pollution. The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well the pollutants are collected, expressed as a percentage efficiency rate and how much air it draws via the filtering element, expressed in cubic feet per minute. These are available in many types & sizes ranging from table top models that are comparatively inexpensive to more targeted whole-house systems. However, air cleaners are not recommended by the EPA as they are deemed to be ineffective and unreliable for only partially diminishing rodent decay and removal.
How to test IAQ?
There are devices called the IAQ sensors which detect inputs in the physical environment – light, temperature, motion, etc. which is transmitted and measured electronically. Different sensors measure different things and these can be places strategically throughout the building. The EPA recommends 1 sensor/10,000 square feet.
The Cotocon Group has over 10-year experience in assisting building owners to test indoor air quality and comply with NYC Local Law 55. Call us at (212) 889 – 6566 to be compliant and to avoid fines.