Even though every day we face risks in our lives engaging in normal activities such as driving a car, flying in an airplane, working in certain hazardous jobs, and being exposed to outdoor environmental pollution even including over exposure to the sun we can’t avoid certain risks. Some of these risks we have to take because we consider the benefits outweigh the risk. Some risks we can avoid or at least attempt to lower the risk ratio by taking steps and one of these fields is in making the air we breathe of better quality to reduce health-related issues. Improving IAQ (the acronym for indoor air quality) is a step that each of us can make by becoming better educated and understanding the relationship of indoor air quality to our overall health. Just what is indoor air quality? Indoor air quality is actually a measurable concentration of pollutants in the air content of a structure and its impact and the effects that the contents of this air quality has on the occupants of the building.
The air quality may be good or it can be bad and actually in some cases can be life threatening, but in the majority of cases were indoor air quality becomes a problem the air is simply lending to an increase of breathing related problems or allergies. Other health-related issues such as fatigue, headaches, and a weakened immune system can be exacerbated by poor indoor air quality. These problems affect millions of people on a daily basis. This makes indoor air quality the buzzword of the 20th century and of utmost importance to become better educated if you suffer from any of these problems, that you obtain an education in what indoor air quality is and how the indoor air quality in your homes and businesses can be improved to a level that reduces the caustic effects of poor indoor air quality. Improving the indoor air quality in homes consists of three simple steps. Although the three items by themselves are simple the implementation of these three items can be complex depending on the structure and the occupants. IAQ or indoor air quality can be controlled in a house by controlling each of these three items either in a combination which is the best approach or by starting with the specific item that is the biggest offender. In the early 1970s before the oil embargo in the US that made us a nation conscious of energy consumption we build homes and offices that featured little in the way of weatherproofing.
That is to say our homes and offices were either designed on purpose to allow the introduction of inside air as the heating or air conditioning system ran, or were built that way because of the lack of understanding of the need to seal homes to create a higher energy efficiency. When fuel prices skyrocketed in the early 70s homeowners and business owners suddenly became obsessed with sealing up homes and businesses to create higher efficienct operating conditions. This mindset actually generated more of our indoor air quality problems than can be imagined. If you go back to the early 1900s most of our parents and grandparents will tell us that before the commonality of air conditioning homes theor homes were ventilated by simply opening a window. Even in the during the heating system use there was a mindset that having a little fresh air enter the house through a cracked window was good for one’s health and there really is a correct thought process that over the years has been abandoned. In the 1970s a mantra was started that promoted the solution to pollution was dilution. Although for the outdoor environment this is probably not a good suggestion for indoor environments there is much sage wisdom in that mantra. Sealing up our homes and businesses has allowed indoor air contamination to rise exponentially.
This in turn has led to a hypersensitivity of many of the allergens that in earlier years were not considered as major suspects in allergy related issues. It was only in 1970 that the United States Environmental Protection Agency also known as the EPA established threshold standards for air pollution designed to protect human health. The core structure of these standards were initialy designed to first examine the carcinogenicity of chemicals being used within homes and businesses. While it is true that allergies to foods and the pollens in the outdoor air are always going to be triggers for an allergenic response such as asthma, sinusitis, and other health issues that plague people with breathing related illnesses, is for the most part the high concentration of certain indoor air contamination that creates the majority of health-related claims that lead to an escalation of our health-care premiums. To demonstrate how indoor air quality has changed over the last 50 years let’s review some facts and figures. Today the American people spend on average 90% of their time in an enclosed environment either in an automobile all home or a business. 60% of our time on average is spent in our homes or residences.
A steady increase in the last 50 years has led to over 50% of the public being affected by some type of allergenic response or breathing related issue. From 1985 to 1995 the number of people diagnosed with asthma alone had increased from nine to 15 million people representing almost a 70% increase. During this same time. Allergy issues have increased in the medical field by over 400% with infants and children respiratory problems presenting the largest increase of over 800%. Now today recent surveys show that about 20 million Americans including 6.3 million children are affected by asthma. The EPA estimates that in 2000 there were nearly 2 million emergency room visits and nearly half a million hospitalizations due to asthma at a cost of almost $2 billion amongst school children alone. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to compare just 10 years of data and see that over the last 25 years problems with indoor air quality has skyrocketed to unbelievable heights and has had a major impact on our health, our ability to work, and has put an unnecessary strain on our health-care system in which each of us ends up paying for. In future articles we will deal with the three items that have the largest impact on indoor air quality. We will look at them as a whole and then break them down individually and offers suggestions for dealing with each one independently and providing a strategy to deal with them in their totality to create a better indoor living environment.