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Why Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Make Us Sick?

Have you ever been at work and suffered a headache? You’ve probably put it down to the lighting. But there is one possible cause that a lot of us don’t think of: Air Quality. Poor air quality means that particles, bacteria and viruses make their way into the blood stream when we breathe in, causing us to become ill.



In their study on air quality, Ambius found that over 40% of office workers had taken at least one day off each year due to illness. And a further 50% of people reporting difficulty in focusing, and lethargy too. In the UK, there are almost 5 million people working in offices (that’s about 2 million people taking time off due to illness caused by low air quality).

During the current pandemic, the initial guidelines were to make sure you wash and sanitise your hands. However, more recent studies suggest that this may not be enough. It has been proven that COVID-19 remains airborne for longer than initially thought, especially indoors, this can be extremely dangerous. By improving the air quality within your indoor spaces, you can help prevent the spread of this extremely contagious and deadly virus.

The Difference Between Indoor And Outdoor Air Pollution

When you hear the words “air pollution”, you probably think of exhaust fumes from thousands of cars in traffic jams, heavy industrial machinery, and the impact this has on the environment. Lucky for us, we can go inside buildings to escape the danger, right?

Well, no, indoor air pollution can be much worse. In fact, indoor air quality can be (on average) 2-5 times worse than outdoor levels. In some instances, like a plant room, this can reach over 100 times worse. When we enter a building, we bring in with us some of the outdoor pollutants. Typically, these would be able to travel, but once indoors, they become trapped. Indoor spaces are more often than not the ideal environment for bacteria and viruses to reproduce, increasing the risk of you becoming ill.

Think about it like this, the average person breaths 20,000 times a day, and we spend on average 8 hours in our office or at work. Each time we breathe, we expel waste gasses and particles. Add to this the temperature and moisture of the office (which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses), we breathe in more of these waste particles, making it more difficult for our lungs to function properly. This results in illness.

What Are The Physical Effects Of Poor Indoor Air Quality?

There have been several studies highlighting the effect of poor indoor air quality on people. The results show a range of different symptoms, including:

Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

Headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

Respiratory diseases, heart disease, and even cancer.

Children are more physically active, and their lungs are still developing, so children breathe in more air per minute than adults. This results in children being more susceptible to air pollution than adults. However, poor air quality can harm anyone at any age.

The Effects of Air Pollution In Schools

Imagine then, the number of air pollutants that take place in your average classroom with thirty pupils and one member of staff. The UK has the highest cases of childhood asthma in Europe, with one child in 11 being diagnosed. Other effects of poor air quality can be:

Illness

High levels of absenteeism

Lack of concentration

Reduction in the ability to learn and memorise

Behavioural issues

With winter approaching, these effects tend to increase by three times more than any other time of year. The increase in humidity and the use of a heating system provide the ideal conditions for viruses and bacteria to thrive. It has been predicted that even COVID-19 is more prevalent in these conditions and can be airborne for more extended periods of time. Which increases the risk of contracting the illness.

How Can We Improve Indoor Air Quality?

Knowing when, and how to improve the air quality of your building will make a huge difference to your staff, students and visitors.

Smart Plant Systems (SPS) offer the latest in multi-sensing technology to monitor air quality (among other things). Being wireless, the SPS smart sensors send historical and realtime reports to the main SPS control centre, which can be up to 950m away from each sensor. The sensors measure a range of Particulate Matter (PM) including PM1, PM2.5 and PM10. Particulate Matter is microscopic liquid droplets and solids that are so small we breathe them in and can cause severe health issues that affect the lungs and can enter the bloodstream.

The Air Quality Sensors can be placed in a range of areas including plant rooms, cupboards, printing rooms, reception areas, classrooms, kitchens, etc. to make sure you have the highest-quality air circulating your building consistently. The Air Quality Sensors pick up pollution and airborne organic matter, giving you the information that you need to take action.

There are alerts to inform you when the levels of PM are too high, so you can take the recommended steps to improve the indoor air quality of your building. Improving air quality improves health and reduces illness in your staff, students, and visitors.

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