Indoor Air Quality Facts That Will Make Your Skin Crawl

Posted by: IotaComm

Typically, efforts to improve the environment tend to focus on the outdoors. That’s time well spent, but studies are now showing there’s another area that could use some attention: indoor environments. According to the EPA, indoor air in homes and buildings may be more polluted than outdoor air—a serious issue since people spend, on average, 90% of their time indoors. (That’s another good reason to get out and enjoy the outdoors more often.)

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Below are some indoor air quality facts that may surprise you—and help convince you that indoor air pollution really is a problem. They’re also a good reminder of the fact that building managers like you can make an important difference in the world, simply by taking action to ensure your own domain—your facility—remains a healthy place.

Surprising Indoor Air Quality Facts

Routine household activities like cooking and cleaning generate significant levels of volatile and particulate chemicals inside the average home, putting indoor air quality levels similar to that of a polluted major city. (Forbes)

In one study, researchers collected indoor air and surface wipes from newly renovated “green” low-income housing units in Boston both before and after occupancy. All homes had indoor air concentrations that exceeded available risk-based screening levels for at least one chemical. (Environment International)

Research has shown that, in homes with 100% vinyl flooring, children’s urinary concentrations of the benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) metabolite were 15 times higher than children living in homes without any vinyl flooring. (Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in the production of plastic.) (AAAS Presentation)

Research has also shown that, not only are phthalates commonly found in children living in homes with vinyl flooring, but semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) were also commonly found in children living in homes with couches and chairs that contained flame-retardant chemicals. (Forbes)

“Indoor air pollution is a growing problem in the United States and accounts for up to 50% of all illnesses.” (Truth About Mold)

Many types of furniture, electronics, personal care/cleaning products, and floor and wall coverings contain chemicals that can leach, migrate or off-gas from products and end up in indoor air and settled dust. These chemicals can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested via small particles of dust containing these chemicals. Babies and young children often have the highest exposures because of their activities (e.g., hand-to-mouth play on the floor) and physiology (e.g., higher breathing rates). (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health)

Forty-four toxic substances have been identified as being frequently used in carpeting—including the face fiber, backing, adhesives, and carpet pad. (Healthy Building Network)

Carpets can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for five years or possibly more. (Ecology Center)

Many home and office items emit formaldehyde, but the highest levels are typically found in new homes and businesses, or recently renovated ones. New products tend to emit the most formaldehyde, and can continue to “off-gas” for months or years. Formaldehyde levels in urban indoor air can be more than 2,000 times higher than those in urban outdoor air. (Allergic Living)

Is your office environment as healthy as it could be? Talk to us about how easy it is to get started with indoor air quality monitoring.

Four of the top 10 chemicals emitted from furnishings are considered “acute” hazards, or irritants. (Washington Post)

Nearly one in five schools nationwide has at least one schoolroom with a radon level above the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter). The EPA estimates that more than 70,000 schoolrooms in use today have high radon levels. (Vermont Department Of Health)

Almost one-fourth of the nation’s schools have at least one building in need of repair and maintenance, and almost half experience problems with indoor air quality. (EPA)

Six percent of hospital patients get an infection while staying at the hospital, which may be due in part to mixing ventilation systems used by more than 90% of hospital facilities. (Science Daily)

“The International Center for Indoor Environment and Energy estimates that poor air quality from sick buildings increases job losses by 5%.” (Australian Smart Group)

A NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) study of indoor air quality in 500 buildings found that inadequate ventilation was the cause of indoor air quality concerns 52% of the time. (SAIF)

Nobody knows how many kinds of mold there are, but experts estimate that there may be 300,000 or more different types. (Medical News Today)

Most chemical air contaminants in your office come from carpeting, adhesives, manufactured wood products, copy machines, upholstery, and cleaning agents. Dust mites are often present around neglected areas such as printer cords, fans, and vent covers, and can be circulated and inhaled. Molds, pollens, viruses, and bacteria may breed in stagnant water in air ducts, drain pans, or water collected on furniture, carpeting, and ceiling tiles. (Corporate Wellness Magazine)

One researcher estimated the total annual costs caused by exposure to indoor dampness and mold in the U.S. as $3.7 billion for allergic rhinitis, and $1.9 billion for acute bronchitis. (Truth About Mold)

You Can Create A Healthy Building Environment

There’s no doubt about the importance of indoor air quality. Not only is it good for your employees, it’s good for your bottom line. If you want to learn more about how you can monitor your indoor air quality and improve your building environment, talk to us at Iota—we can help!

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