Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air in and around buildings, as it affects human health and safety. Pollutants released into indoor air can cause adverse short- and long-term health effects. These effects have a disproportionate impact on at-risk populations like children, the elderly, asthmatics, low-income, minorities, and tribes and indigenous peoples. The primary sources of indoor air pollution are harmful particles or gases released into the air. Concentrations of indoor pollutants can be exacerbated by poor ventilation, which prevents outdoor air from entering to dilute or carry out pollutants. Some pollutants become more concentrated when temperatures and humidity levels increase. Sources of indoor air pollution include fuel-burning combustion appliances, tobacco products, excess humidity, central heating and cooling systems, cleaning products, and building materials and furnishings (ranging from insulation containing asbestos to products made of wood laminate, and new flooring, upholstery, or carpeting). Pollution sources can also come from outside buildings, such as radon, pesticides, and vehicle emissions.1

IAQ Management Plans offer measures to reduce indoor air pollution, aimed to protect both building occupants and construction workers. These measures are organized around three main strategies: source control, improved ventilation, and air cleaners. The first of these, reducing pollution sources, is the most effective way to improve IAQ, whether by minimizing smoking or detecting and eliminating building materials that cause harmful emissions. For example, insulation containing asbestos can be sealed or enclosed, and appliances like gas stoves can be regulated to reduce emissions. Air quality can also be improved through passive ventilation (opening windows) and active ventilation (fans and ventilation systems). High-efficiency air filtration systems with a high air-circulation rate can also be effective at removing harmful particles. 2

There are several certification programs and standards that measure indoor air quality. These include GREENGUARD (for indoor VOC testing), ASHRAE (for heating, cooling, refrigeration, and ventilation systems), and FloorScore (for flooring materials and adhesives). The state of California has also established specifications used across the building industry through CDPH 01350 and CARB.

  1. The Environmental Protection Agency: Introduction to Indoor Air Quality  
  2. California Air Resources Board: Indoor Air Quality Research


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