More and more attention goes out to the concepts air quality and indoor environment. But are these concepts the same or do they mean something else? How do they affect health and what can you do?
What is air quality
Although it is often thought that air quality and indoor environment are two and the same, this is not the case. When we talk about air quality, this relates to how healthy the air is. This can include either outside air or indoor air. The health of the air depends on the composition of the air. The air we breathe, consists of many substances. The most important are nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour and carbon dioxide. Without these substances, there is no life possible on earth. In addition to these substances, the air contains pollutants such as particulate matter, smoke, microbes, volatile organic compounds and traffic pollution.
The presence or absence of certain substances and the concentration in which these substances occur, determine the quality of the air. If one of these values differs from the norm, action must be taken.
When determining the air quality, one should look at:
- Particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5, PM1 and ultrafines, such as traffic emissions)
- Microbiological contaminants (such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, spores and pollen)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC, e.g. paint and cleaning vapours)
- Relative humidity (the amount of moisture in the air)
What is the indoor environment
The indoor environment is the environment in an indoor space. This can be a building or even a vehicle. Aspects that affect the indoor environment and the comfort experience are:
- Air quality
- Air flow (draft)
- Light intensity
As can be seen, the indoor environment is dependent on many aspects. If one or more of these aspects does not meet the standard, the health of the indoor environment and the comfort experience are affected. This can have minor consequences, but can also make you sick.
Influence of air quality and indoor environment on health
When the air quality is in imbalance, by an increase or decrease of the aspects that influence the air quality, health is affected. It depends per person how much this affects you.
Science showed particulate matter can cause various health issues ranging from a runny nose to decreased lung capacity and even cancer. The rule for particulate matter: the less the better. Even exposure to particulate matter concentrations below the WHO standards (World Health Organisation), have a negative impact on health.
This includes, amongst others, viruses, bacteria, fungi, spores and pollen. These contaminations make you sick. This applies for those who are healthy, but older people, sick people and babies are even more susceptible to this. The rule for microbiological contaminations: the less the better. Removing these contaminations from the air will not prevent contact contamination.
Volatile organic compounds
These compounds affect anyone who comes into contact with this. The higher the concentration, the more health issues. Complaints are compound-dependent and can range from mild headache to even unconsciousness or death. The rule for volatile organic compounds: the less the better.
The presence of too much moisture in the air can affect human health. When it is too damp, fungal growth is stimulated. The transmission of viruses can also be stimulated at too high or too low relative humidity. In addition, too damp or too dry air has a big impact on the comfort experience of the room. The rule for relative humidity: it must not be too low or too high.
A temperature that is imbalanced can be a stimulus for microbiological growth. Additionally, a temperature too high or too low will affect the comfort of the room. The rule for temperature is not to set it too low or too high.
When there is draft or the room is poorly ventilated, the comfort experience of the room is affected. Furthermore, poor ventilation will affect the indoor air quality of a room. Consider the increase in CO2 concentrations and a decrease of oxygen.
Light intensity and sound
Excessive light intensity / sound or a low light intensity affects the comfort of the room. Find a balance where you can work and live comfortably.
What can you do to improve the air quality and indoor environment
- Particulate matter
Ventilate around traffic hours. Avoid smoking / incense indoors and, if not already present, use air purification.
- Microbiological contaminations
During the pollen season, ventilate in the morning and in the evening, preferably after rain. Apply air purification if not already present.
- Volatile organic compounds
Make sure, when working indoors with substances that cause vapours (such as paint, cleaning agents etc.), you ventilate properly and preferably work outside with these materials. When these vapours are transported from outside, ventilate when the concentration is at its lowest. Apply air purification for high concentrations to remove these substances from the air.
- Relative humidity
Regularly ventilate the entire room/building. Ventilate not only in summer, but also in winter. Indoor relative humidity often is too low during winter.
Set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature and regularly maintain the ventilation system / air conditioning unit (HVAC).
- Air flow
Direct the ventilation system so no one is affected by draft. Regularly maintain the ventilation system / HVAC so you are guaranteed of a constant supply of clean air.
- Light intensity and sound
Ensure good sun protection, enough and not too bright lights and noise damping screens when necessary.
Are you unsure about the indoor air quality or indoor environment, please contact us for air quality measurements and a personal optimisation plan.