Your Health

Why is Ventilation and Filtration Important?

To meet the demands for energy conservation, we have built our homes to keep fresh air out. As we increase our home’s efficiency, we also become more efficient at trapping contaminants. That means the air inside our homes — the air we breathe every day — is likely to be more polluted than the air outdoors. Up to 50 times more.

The most harmful contaminants in our homes are airborne particulates that are invisible to the naked eye. Particulate matter less than 10 micrometers in size, including fine particles less than 2.5 micrometers, penetrate deep into the lungs, causing serious health problems.

Evidence from community studies links particulate exposure to premature death, increased hospitalization, school absence, and lost work days due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases like asthma. People most at risk are children, the elderly, and people with chronic respiratory problems.

Immediate Effects

Immediate effects may show up after a single exposure or repeated exposures. These include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable.Sometimes the treatment is simply eliminating the person’s exposure to the source of the pollution, if it can be identified. Symptoms of some diseases, including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever, may also show up soon after exposure to some indoor air pollutants.

Sick Building Syndrome

The term “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

Long-term Effects

Other health effects may show up either years after exposure has occurred or only after long or repeated periods of exposure. These effects, which include some respiratory diseases, heart disease, and cancer, can be severely debilitating or fatal. It is prudent to try to improve the indoor air quality in your home even if symptoms are not noticeable.

Indoor Types of Pollutants

Volatile Organic Compounds’ Impact on Indoor Air Quality

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. They are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Sources of VOCs

Household products, including:

  • paints, paint strippers and other solvents
  • wood preservatives
  • aerosol sprays
  • cleansers and disinfectants
  • air fresheners
  • stored fuels and automotive products
  • hobby supplies
  • dry-cleaned clothing
  • pesticide
  • building materials (wood, insulation, glue)
  • furnishings