How Indoor Air Quality Affects Your Health

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May 1, 2015

Reducing Pollutants in Homes and Businesses Improves Well-being

Green building products should impact the environment around us— and indoor air quality— as little as possible. The goal must be to reduce pollutants outdoors and indoors.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers indoor air quality (IAQ) even more critical to overall health than pollution in the atmosphere. An EPA study found harmful indoor pollutants could be up to 100 times greater than those outdoors.

Indoor Air QualityWhy Indoor Air Quality Matters

Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). You spend 21.6 hours every day inside school, work, home, restaurants, shopping locations, businesses, churches, indoor recreational and sports facilities, and other structures.

Those figures do not include the time you spend inside your car. A Harvard study estimates adult Americans drive 1.7 hours each day driving.

So on average, adult Americans are enclosed in buildings or cars 23.3 hours out of 24.

Sick Building Syndrome

Health problems caused by poor indoor air quality are often mistaken for symptoms of colds, flu, allergies, or stress. Other symptoms of compromised IAQ could include:

• Acute headaches
• Depression
• Dizziness
• Dry coughs
• Fatigue
• Fever and chills
• Lung, throat, nose, or eye irritations
• Muscle pain
• Nausea
• Rashes and dermatitis

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an illness might the result of poor indoor air quality if the symptoms disappear when you leave the building— especially over the weekend of on vacation. If the symptoms reappear when you return to the building, suspect an IAQ problem.

People with allergies, asthma, chemical sensitivities, emphysema or other respiratory problems are the most vulnerable to indoor air pollutants. Children and the elderly often suffer first.

The EPA uses the term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) to describe any structure which chronically seems to cause health problems, yet no specific source of the illness can be identified.

Most indoor air quality irritants come from inside the building itself.

Manufactured wood products, carpeting, glues, pesticides, copy machines, upholstery, chemical, cleaning agents, draperies, and other items within the structure can emit volatile organic compounds (VOC), including formaldehyde.

(Remember that horrible, breath-snatching smell when you had to dissect that frog in biology class? That is formaldehyde.)

Bacteria, mold, mildew, and pollen may also contaminate indoor air quality— especially when excess moisture is present.

Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Homes and buildings can contribute to good health or poor health. A healthy structure promotes cleaner air to breathe by:

  • Allowing smoking only outside the structure. (Secondhand tobacco smoke emits over 200 different VOCs.)
  • Avoiding the use of building products that outgas pollutants into the atmosphere, like composite wood products
  • Discouraging moisture and dampness that promotes mold or mildew
  • Increasing ventilation and circulating air
  • Keeping roofs and gutters clean
  • Maintaining heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems properly
  • Providing comfortable temperature and humidity levels
  • Reducing air-borne irritants that trigger asthma attacks, itchy eyes, stuffy noses, labored breathing or allergic rashes
  • Removing the source of the pollution, such as rotting wood, water-stained carpeting, or moldy ceiling tiles
  • Shunning chemical pollutants, such as cleaning supplies and noxious termicides
  • Supplying a tight building envelope which protects against outdoor pollutants like radon
  • Using high-performance air filters which capture minute particles in the air

Avoid IAQ Problems by Building with Steel

Many indoor air quality problems stem from the use of organic materials like wood and wood products.

Man-made wood products like oriented strand board (OSB), plywood, and engineered wood products contain volatile adhesives that outgas into the building. Wood also attracts termites, increasing the need for chemically treated wood or harsh termite treatments.

Like termites and wood ants, mold and fungus actually feeds on organic, plant-based materials like wood.

Steel is inorganic, so it:

• Does not attract termites, wood ants, or vermin.
• Never needs harsh, chemical treatments.
• Does not outgas or releases VOCs.
• Will not support the growth of mold, mildew, or fungus.

Pre-engineered steel building systems do not require outgassing wood composite materials like plywood or OSB for exterior cladding.

Take a deep, refreshing breath, then call RHINO Steel Building Systems. RHINO toll-free number is 888.320.7466.

Learn more about the many benefits steel buildings offer for your pocketbook, your peace of mind— and your health.

- by Bruce Brown,
CEO of RHINO
Steel Building Systems, Inc

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