We talk about indoor air quality a lot. (Or IAQ – it’s even got a sleek acronym). But why is it so important? Well, since urban dwellers spend around 90% of our time indoors – whether that’s at home, at work or at school – our exposure to unhealthy air is prolonged.
It’s important that the air we’re breathing is doing us some good – not having the opposite effect. Let’s dive into why indoor air is so important, so we can continue to have conversations around it and make sure every family in New Zealand has access to the information they need to keep their home healthy.
How can indoor air affect health?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), indoor air quality is one of the top 5 environmental hazards for the Western world. And while you might think being inside is always the safest option, the air inside our homes can be up to 5 times more polluted than that outdoors.
What’s worse is that few people realise this. We know all about the pollution outside from the likes of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, but most people are surprised to hear about the negative health effects the air inside their own homes can trigger.
Low indoor temperatures and dampness are two sources of poor air quality in many homes across New Zealand.
The links between poor IAQ and bad health are pretty worrying. From a high risk of asthma in NZ (with 1 in 4 children affected) to high rates of throat infections, here are some of the potential health complications related to indoor air:
- Skin infections
- Respiratory illnesses
- Throat and nasal illnesses
- Lung and heart complications
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Allergic reactions
“We take about 20,000 breaths each day and spend 90% of our time indoors. Reducing exposure to substances in the environment around us that trigger allergy and asthma symptoms is important. Eliminating these indoor triggers is a great place to start.” – Kenneth Mendez, CEO and president of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
The environmental pollutants we’re exposed to every day
In the UK, the National Health Service estimates that 24,000 people die prematurely because of poor IAQ. Like us here in NZ, the majority of people spend most of their time indoors. Homes, workplaces, schools, transport and other public spaces like the gym, shops and restaurants all make up our usual habitats.
But which common pollutants could be lurking there? Here’s a few:
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds) – chemicals found in the air
- Second-hand smoke
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Lead particles
- Asbestos or other toxic building materials
- Mould and mildew
Without fresh air to remove these pollutants, they’re in our space and we breathe them in. This could create new health issues or antagonise pre-existing concerns.
Short-term & long-term effects
Indoor air pollutants could have an immediate impact on health, or the results of exposure could surface years later.
Signs of poor IAQ in the short-term include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, dizziness, coughing or sneezing, headaches and fatigue. On top of that, it could quickly aggravate existing health conditions such as asthma. Most of these immediate effects tend to be mild and treatable. Of course, everyone reacts differently to air toxins and allergens. Just think of peanuts – they’re a tasty snack for some and highly dangerous for others.
Other effects of air pollutants may only show up years later or after repeated exposure. These effects include respiratory diseases, heart diseases and even cancer, and there’s often no complete cure for them.
Is your home healthy? Book a FREE assessment to find out
It’s not all doom and gloom. Keeping the air in your home healthy is usually as simple as installing a ventilation system and following a few tips.
Book a free home visit and our experts can take a look at the hazards in your space and recommend the best ventilation system for you and your family.