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Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Sources of Poor Indoor Air Quality

With winter approaching, you will be spending more time indoors.  Therefore, you will want the air quality in your home to be of higher quality.  Here is what homeowners and businesses in Chcago’s North Shore need to know about Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor air quality is compromised when contaminants are present.  As all people are different, so too is their sensitivity to contaminants.  But the very young or very old, those suffering from asthma or other respiratory ailments, or anyone with a specific sensitivity will be more susceptible to contaminants in the air.

Contaminants include the following:

  1. Mold.  Mold spores can be a problem if they are allowed to grow and increase in concentration.  Growth requires moisture and a food source (cellulose such as wood framing, paper backing on drywall, etc.).  The food source must remain moist for 72 hours to start the growth and spread of mold.
  2. Bacteria. Bacteria, which can cause such infectious diseases as typhoid fever, pneumonia, and Legionnaires’ disease, can grow on non-living surfaces.
  3. Viruses.  These can cause diseases such as the common cold, influenza, measles, and N1H1.  Viruses often are spread by droplet infection.  A human sneeze can add 100,000 droplets of virus-containing moisture into the air.
  4. Pollen. Trees, flowers, grasses, and weeds produce pollen.  Pollen counts increase in the Midwest from March through September.
  5. Gasses.  There are thousands of gaseous chemicals that can enter homes from the infiltration of polluted outdoor air.  Gasses can come from ozone and radon, from the use of cleaning and personal care products, and from internal combustion sources such as a water heater, furnace, boiler, fireplace, cooktop, or oven.
  6. Particles.  Particle pollution, also known as particulate matter, is a collection of fine solids suspended in the air.  Particles consist of dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets, whose size is measured in microns (one millionth of a meter).  For comparative purposes, the average human hair is about 50 microns in diameter.  Particles ten microns and larger are visible to the naked eye, will fall out of the air within four minutes, and pose little health risk.  Particles less than 10 microns can accumulate in the respiratory system.  Particles less than 2.5 microns, usually in some form of smoke, pose the greatest health risk because of their ability to clog the respiratory system.  Finally, particles smaller than 0.1 microns are small enough to pass through lungs, directly into the blood stream.  Medical research is just now studying the effects of particles of this size on human health.

Next month we will address strategies to improve indoor air quality

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*Based on research conducted January - August 2016