The EPA defines Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as the quality of air in and around various buildings and structures. Such quality determines the comfort and the health of the occupants of these houses. The EPA standard and guidelines have been put in place to help individuals understand and control the pollutants that affect indoor air quality. They help reduce the risk of developing health issues due to indoor air pollution.
Indoor air pollutants have the potential of causing either immediate or long term health effects.
Health issues have the potential of arising immediately after a single exposure or repeated instances of exposure to a given pollutant. In most cases, such immediate effects are easily treatable.
One can even stop the effects by simply reducing exposure to the root cause. Common health effect include fatigue, dizziness, headaches, irritation to the nose, eyes, throat, headaches, stomachaches, and so on.
There are various factors that may determine the effect of these pollutants on an individual. These include immunity, pre-existing conditions, a person’s sensitivity, existing allergies, and length of exposure.
Since the symptoms of these conditions often mimic the common cold or other common diseases, it is not always easy to tell. The only way to identify the causes is to try and control various conditions; for example, being away from the house for a while.
These are health conditions that take long to appear and their effects may be much more severe. Examples include cancer, respiratory issues, or even heart diseases. The EPA standards exist to help individual reduce or eliminate the occurrence of these conditions.
Since each pollutant varies on the basis of concentration, length of existence, and how people react to them, there is no conclusive data on how or what their effects are. Further research still needs to be done.
Causes of Indoor Air Quality Problems:
Other than the existence of pollutants that release toxic particles into the air, a key problem in most indoor spaces is lack of proper ventilation and air conditioning. The existence of humidity or high temperature can also increase the concentration of these pollutants. The main sources of these pollutants include:
· Heating, cooling, and humidification systems.
· Building materials such as asbestos, flooring materials, upholstery, or carpets
· Cleaning and building products.
· Combustion systems, especially the ones that use unhealthy fuels.
· Outdoor air pollution, such as the use of pesticides.
EPA Guidelines on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality:
A) Controlling the Source:
When the source of pollution is known, the best way to avoid continued effects is to eliminate it. For example, a gas stove that gives out toxic emissions can have its burner adjusted or repaired. Eliminating the source of the problem is often the most cost effective approach.
B) Improving Ventilation:
Ventilation improves the circulation of air within a given enclosed space. It reduces concentration of polluted air, thereby reducing instances of health problems. Improving ventilation may involve taking simple steps such as installing a fan or keeping windows open to improve air circulation.
C) Installing Air Cleaners:
Currently, the types and varieties of air cleaners available in the market have widened tremendously. Depending on the type and size one installs, air cleaners can help reduce pollutant air particles in the air. However, they are not perfectly suited to handle gas pollutants.
These and other factors are the basis of the EPA indoor air quality standards.