Air Pollution: The health benefits of improving indoor air quality

Results of a study released this week have revealed the extent to which effective filtration of indoor air can impact our health. The study shows that filters used to improve indoor air quality (IAQ) can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure levels, decreasing the risk of serious conditions such as heart attacks and strokes.

The World Health Organization attributes four million deaths a year to fine particulate matter exposure and recommends against average exposure above 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3).

An average person inhales up to 15kg of air per day. Should there be a high concentration of fine particles in the air, such as spores or soot, the body can be directly affected. Once inhaled, they can affect our sleep, concentration and overall health. As awareness of these health conditions grows, as well as the role that IAQ has to play in exacerbating these conditions, more of a focus is being placed on the solutions aimed at improving air quality.

poor indoor air quality poses risks to children, iaq, indoor air quality
Poor indoor air quality can pose significant risks to children’s health.

Part of this increased awareness is a new clarification around the types of filters available, and the introduction of new EN standards to formalise this. Issued in July, the ISO 16890 standard replaced old guidelines and divides filters into four new classes:

ISO Coarse: Filters particulates greater than 10μm in size – sand, fluff, flying seeds or fine hair.

ISO ePM10: Filters particles between 10μm to 2.5μm in size – pollen, stone dust or agricultural dust.

ISO ePM2.5: Filters even smaller particulates, less than 2.5μm in size – fungi, mould spores, pollen.

ISO ePM1: The most effective filter, having the ability to filter air-borne sea salt, oil mist or other particles smaller than 1μm from penetrating through the filter.

It’s encouraging that more and more research is being conducted both into Indoor Air Quality and the solutions that aim to improve it. Now is the time to look beyond simple filtration techniques and instead explore more ‘whole building’ solutions to solve the issue. The debate around IAQ, as opposed to a pure focus on outdoor pollutants, is growing, and it’s time for the construction and building services industries to ensure that the filtration of air and measures to increase IAQ are included in the earliest stages of building design.

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