Quality air is vital for our health

Quality air is not something we should take for granted but the truth is that most of us just breathe whatever we are given. Air quality outdoors is not something we have too much control over but indoors we can take control and ensure that the environment is healthy for you and your family.

Pure air composition

The common name air is given to the atmospheric gases used in breathing and photosynthesis. By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere.

Air composition after we breathe out

The permanent gases in gas we exhale are 4% to 5% by volume more carbon dioxide and 4% to 5% by volume less oxygen than was inhaled. This expired air typically composed of: 78.04% nitrogen 13.6% - 16% Oxygen 4% - 5.3% Carbon dioxide 1% Argon and other gases Additionally vapors and trace gases are present: 5% water vapor, several parts per million (ppm) of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, 1 part per million (ppm) of ammonia and less than 1 ppm of acetone, methanol, ethanol and other volatile organic compounds.

Air pollutants affect our health

Air pollutants are the result of how we live

Air is seldom pure. The moment we introduce humans into the equation, the composition of air changes. Our daily activities, our industries, motor vehicles, the products we use, chemicals, even the dust we create, all create pollution to a greater or lesser extent. Some of this we can manage but the rest is difficult to escape. Our governments have air quality regulations for our cities and workplaces but our home are often forgotten as a possible concentration of pollution which will affect our health. We have listed the most serious and most common pollutants below.

Carbon monoxide

CO interferes oxygen carrying capacity of blood, nausea, unconsciousness, death; indoor CO is more dangerous because of accumulation from automobiles, charcoal grills, stoves etc.

Ground level ozone

Ozone is extremely reactive, inhalation damages lung tissues, retinal damage, cataracts, affects plants, marine life: electric motors, photocopiers, welding.

Sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides

These are commonly from smog, dissolves in moisture to form acid in lung thereby damaging it: coal burning plants/stoves.

Particulate matter

Particulate matter affects lungs: tiny solid or liquid particles, classified by size (um): PM10, PM2.5 – truck and car engines, burning coal, fires, blowing dust.

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Biological contaminants

Biological contaminants include mould, house dust, bacteria, viruses, animal dander, cat saliva, pollen, cockroaches and mites. They are either living things or produced by living things.

Air pollution is not always obvious

Around a factory, an industrial plant or on crowded streets, pollution can be very obvious and we are immediately allerted to potential health issues. However, in our homes, the pollution can be just as bad but not immediately obvious - silent killers.

Indoor air quality

What determines air quality?

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within buildings and structures, relating to the health and comfort of occupants.

IAQ is affected by microbial contaminants (mould, bacteria), gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions.

Indoor air quality is increasingly more of a health hazard than outdoor air quality.

Typically some form of ventilation or filtration is used to dilute contaminants. “Air source” control (H-Vac) is used to improve indoor air quality, but commercial system options are limited.

Determination of IAQ involves the collection of air samples, monitoring human exposure to pollutants, collection of samples on building surfaces and computer modelling of air flow inside buildings.

Poor ventilation is the leading air quality issue

Modern airconditoning does not create air quality

Unhealthy toxic pollutants build up

Most residential and commercial air conditioning systems continually recycle the air within the room or building. Most systems have inefficient delivery of the air through roof vents - no matter whether cool or warm.

With recycling comes a progressive build up of pollutants, Volatile Organic Compounds allergens and germs within the building. Filters quickly clog up with pollutants and need continuous manual cleaning.

Carbon Dioxide levels will also rise as the same air is returned into the same environment.

H-Vac systems help but they are not the answer.

Most modern air conditioning systems are very energy inefficient - high energy costs which you cannot afford.

Symptoms often seen with poor indoor air quality

Household pollutants you need to worry about

Molds & Allergens

Biological chemicals can arise many ways but two common classes are:

(i) moisture induced growth of mould colonies (particularly the deadly black mould) and;

(ii) natural substances released into the air such as animal dander and plant pollen.

Carbon monoxide

One of the most acutely toxic indoor air contaminants is carbon monoxide (CO), a colourless, odourless gas that is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels.

Common sources of carbon monoxide are tobacco smoke, space heaters using fossil fuels, defective central heating furnaces and automobile exhaust.

By depriving the brain of oxygen, high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to nausea, unconsciousness and death.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) correlates with human metabolic activity.

Carbon dioxide at levels that are unusually high indoors may cause occupants to grow drowsy, get headaches, or function at lower activity levels.

Indoor levels are an indicator of the adequacy of outdoor air ventilation.

Volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors.

VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Radon

Radon is an invisible, radioactive atomic gas that results from the radioactive decay of radium, which may be found in rock formations beneath buildings or in certain building materials themselves.

Radon is most likely responsible for tens of thousands of deaths from lung cancer each year.

Radon is a heavy gas and thus will tend to accumulate at the floor level. Radon accumulation is greatest for well insulated homes.

Asbestos

Many common building materials used before 1975 contain asbestos, such as some floor tiles, ceiling tiles, taping muds, pipe wrap, mastics and other insulation materials.

Normally significant releases of asbestos fibre do not occur unless the building materials are disturbed.

Inhalation of asbestos fibres over long exposure times is associated with increased incidence of lung cancer.

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Patented in the USA, China, Australia and NZ. Patents pending in Europe, Canada and Japan. Patent Pending No. PCT/AU2011/0003666.

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