We spend a large proportion of our lives indoors at home, work and school or in shops and restaurants, breathing air that has potentially been polluted by a wide range of substances from natural and man-made sources.
People have been increasingly focused on internal and external air quality over the last year as its potential impact on their health and wellbeing is fully recognised. We offer a range of complete aircare solutions to help improve air quality.
What is the difference between health and wellbeing?
There are many definitions of wellbeing, but all have a common theme of feeling good and functioning well. The Wellbeing Institute at Cambridge University defines wellbeing as “positive and sustainable characteristics which enable individuals and organisations to thrive and flourish”. It’s a subjective measure of how comfortable we are in our present situation and with our life in general.
The broad definition of health includes wellbeing, but in this context refers to diseases and conditions that make us physically unwell, such as infections, allergies, tiredness, headaches, and respiratory, skin or vision problems.
What causes poor indoor air quality?
Air quality is determined by the environmental conditions and the amount of particles and polluting gases that it contains. These have a variety of origins. Indoor environments in industrialised countries commonly have a large number of sources of air pollution.
Common sources of contaminants in indoor air include the following:
- Biological contamination: fungi and bacteria caused by condensation and damp materials, dust mites and pollen from outdoor air
- Biological contamination from humans and animals: human-derived microbes, for example, from sneezing and coughing; droppings and detritus from birds, rodents and cockroaches
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Ozone (O3) and particles from industrial and household products: paints, solvents, waxes and polishes, air fresheners, drain cleaners, printers and copiers, perfumes, soaps, writing and drawing materials, paper products, cooked food, tobacco and vaping products
- Traffic and industrial pollutants from outdoors: particles from vehicle exhausts and factories, and gaseous pollution such as nitrous oxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2)
The indoor climate is related to the temperature, relative humidity and airflow. These in turn are affected by the indoor sources of heat and cooling, the outdoor environmental conditions, the amount of sunlight and the design of the building as well as the HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
The impact of poor air quality on health
Poor air quality can cause a wide range of negative effects on the people in a building, including medical symptoms, a reduced feeling of wellbeing and drop in performance within a work or learning environment.
The resulting effect of any pollutant depends on multiple factors, including concentration of the pollutant, duration of exposure, age, gender, sensitivity and the general health of the people exposed.
The impacts of some of the typical indoor pollutants are given below:
- Particulate matter: respiratory illnesses, including asthma and bronchitis in the short term and heart disease and lung disease in the long term, and also anxiety and hypertensive disorders.
- Ozone: asthma, irritation of eyes, nose and airways and damage to airways from long-term exposure
- VOCs such as formaldehyde: eye, nose and throat irritation, headache and allergic skin reaction, cancer
- Carbon monoxide: headache, dizziness, nausea and even death
How to improve air quality
These pollutants can be kept to a minimum, first by following good practices in building design and maintenance in order to control the quantity emitted by building materials. The majority of buildings, however, were built before the modern standards were developed so they are still potential sources of the air pollutants described earlier.
There are also portable devices that can be placed in rooms to clean the circulating air and remove pollutants. All of our VIRUSKILLER™ Air Purifiers kill 99.9999% of viruses in a single air pass, including Coronavirus*. Installing these units can help to improve your air quality and stop the airborne transmission of infectious illnesses, making indoor spaces safer for customers, visitors, patients and colleagues.
*When independently tested against Coronavirus DF2 (a surrogate for Coronavirus), Adenovirus, Influenza and Polio, the unit was found to kill 99.9999% of viruses on a single air pass.
The benefits of a well building
There are several building rating systems used to measure the wellness of buildings, including BREEAM and the WELL Building Standard. The WELL certification system focuses on the factors that affect human health and wellbeing, not just on environmental assessment, and includes 29 air quality measures and standards.
There have been over 2000 building projects in 52 countries that have WELL certification and are seeing the impact that good building design and indoor air quality can have on the health, wellbeing and productivity of employees.
The World Green Building Council has compiled evidence from 11 green building projects around the world. The top three benefits of the green buildings were:
- Improvements to occupant wellbeing, satisfaction and productivity
- Reductions in energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollutants
- Strong financial returns for the companies owning or occupying the buildings
The key findings of the projects were that companies can save money, employees prefer green buildings that make them feel healthier, and a building’s asset value increases when it becomes greener. This indicates that implementing measures to improve health and wellbeing for the occupants of a building can also result in significant economic benefit too.
For more information please feel free to contact us or call us on 0800 313 4972, and we will be more than happy to help.