The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)defines indoor air quality (IAQ) as the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of the building occupants. Good IAQ guarantees comfort, health and well being of the occupants while poor IAQ poses a health risk to them. We spend nearly 90% of our time indoors and breathe air that is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and it’s therefore vital to maintain and take care of our facilities to ensure they are not polluted.
The World Health Organization declares indoor air pollution as one of the world’s largest environmental problems and a leading cause of premature death and illnesses like heart disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution can be caused by volatile organic compounds, microscopic particles of dust in the air, inorganic compounds, physical chemicals, and biological factors, all of which can have negative impacts on the human body. People with preexisting lung conditions and children are especially most at risk. A study by the Global Burden of Disease reveals that 1.6 million people died prematurely in 2017 as a result of indoor air pollution. To put this into context: this was four times the number of homicides – close to 400,000 in 2017.
But did you know that proper cleaning plays a vital role in combating indoor air pollution and improving IAQ?
Vacuuming carpets and area rugs at least twice a week, for instance, is a sure way of controlling indoor air pollution. The fibers of carpets trap and hide pollutants like dirt, dust, dander, allergens, pathogens, pesticides, and other toxic materials which negatively impact a building’s IAQ. These pollutants become airborne during vacuuming, renovations or even daily activities like walking on the carpet. Proper cleaning with professional vacuums effectively removes these pollutants from carpets, preventing us from breathing them into our lungs. The EPA recommends regular carpet cleaning using a vacuum cleaner equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter for its high proficiency in removing dirt, including potentially harmful micro-particles that float around in the air. The HEPA vacuum filtration is believed to prevent dust re-entrainment, which may re-contaminate carpet surfaces after using a non-HEPA vacuum cleaner. The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers indicates that a HEPA filter can remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns, making it a highly efficient tool for improving IAQ. Cleaning carpets professionally does more than improve the appearance of the carpet – it provides a healthier indoor environment.
Frequent cleaning of air conditioners also keeps a building free from indoor air pollution. An air conditioning unit not only cools a facility but also keeps the air circulating inside clean and healthy. A clogged, dirty air filter can become a secondary source of indoor pollution in a building. Dust accumulation causes less airflow and provides a suitable breeding ground for mold, fungi, bacteria and germs to thrive. Consequently, whenever such a dirty air conditioner is turned on, these harmful particles get blown into the room and contaminate the air,degenerating the IAQ and exposing the occupants to a variety of respiratory infections. Likewise, the evaporator coils should be professionally cleaned periodically. When dirt corrodes the coil the refrigerant leaks and releases poisonous vapors to the indoor environment that causes an unhealthy IAQ that is toxic to the occupants’ health. A well cleaned and maintained air conditioner works efficiently to provide a healthy and comfortable IAQ for people to live and work in. With its clean filters it maintains humidity by humidifying or dehumidifying the room and prevents stuffiness and mildew, cleans the air and removes pollutants and allergens without blowing them back, and provides constant and adequate air flow, all necessary factors for good IAQ.
In addition to cleaning air conditioners,cleaning air ventilation ducts also assists in improving IAQ.Ventilation ducts often contain millions of dust particles, pollens and allergens that, when air conditioners are turned on, can make their way into rooms where they are easily breathed and can trigger allergies and respiratory complications. Professional duct cleaning involves the cleansing of the entire duct work including the supply and return air ducts as well as the registers and diffusers in each room. Powerful vacuums with HEPA filters whisk away all the accumulated dust and debris and prevents it from recirculating in the building. Cleaning and maintaining air ducts minimizes indoor air contamination and is beneficial to the IAQ of any building.Despite the advent of air purifying technologies that have hit the market in recent times it is recommended to clean air vents manually.
The use of toxic cleaning chemicals has been proven to reduce the quality of indoor air. Harsh, traditional cleaning products that are stuffed with many harmful chemicals affect IAQ as explained in this article.These products contain volatile organic compounds like phosphorous, ammonia and nitrogen that contaminate the air and cause health problems through inhalation or skin absorption. To mitigate the indoor air pollution caused by these chemicals it’s recommended to use eco-friendly cleaning products, as explained in the aforementioned article, as they have natural, biodegradable and non-toxic ingredients that are less harmful to the IAQ.
Following the color coding system when cleaning as discussed here are-you-following-the-color-coding-system/ is another practice that improves the IAQ of a building. It is a system that uses different, specific colors for different, specific rooms to prevent cross contamination across surfaces. Cleaning materials and equipment are color-coded to represent their different features, functions and designations. For example, a red colored cleaning tool is exclusively used in washrooms while a blue colored tool is meant for cleaning general areas. This clear distinction and discrimination minimizes cross contamination and dispersion of airborne pathogens from one room to another, therefore playing a role in controlling and maintaining IAQ.
Worth noting is that these cleaning tasks, to be completely effective, should be done thoroughly and correctly. Having a competent, professional team and good machinery and equipment can make the cleaning easier and produce more desirable results. A facility that takes care of its indoor air quality plays a significant part in protecting the health of its occupants and demonstrates a conscious awareness for the environment.