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What is the definition of good air quality?

05/25/23 5 min reading time HealthSustainability

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 7 million people die each year as a result of air pollution. This number is far too high. But the only way to improve it is to improve the air we all breathe.

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Indoor air in businesses: How bad is it really?

Air pollution isn’t just a concern for those who spend a lot of time in urban areas dealing with dense smog – it affects us all. In fact, indoor air is often much worse than outdoor air. Surprised? Keep reading to find out more.
But how serious is air pollution? Or, to put it another way, why should we care about it (regardless of climate change)?

The answer is simple: According to the WHO, air pollution is responsible for nearly 7 million deaths worldwide each year, with strokes, heart attacks, and lung infections being the leading causes.

In the UK alone, between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year are attributed to human-made air pollution.

So, the question is: What is good air quality? And how do we improve the air quality we breathe to prevent it from becoming a danger to us?

Good air quality: Exploring the Air Quality Index

Indoor air pollution can be a tricky matter, especially when the particles posing a threat to your employees are usually invisible. We're talking about types of particulate matter like:

  • Wood dust
  • Metal dust
  • Rubber dust
  • Plastic dust
  • Concrete dust

There are also many more types that can pose a real danger to the human body. Alarmingly, every company is exposed to at least one type of particulate matter.  

To assess air quality, we rely on the AQI (Air Quality Index). The AQI is an index that indicates the daily air quality, revealing how clean or polluted the air is and the associated health risks.

The AQI primarily focuses on the health effects that can occur when exposed to unhealthy air for a few hours or days. In other words, the higher the AQI value, the greater the health risk.

When is the AQI especially significant?

The AQI evaluates air quality based on the four most important air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act (US): 

  • Particle pollution
  • Ground-level ozone
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide

The higher the AQI value on a scale of 0 to 500, the greater the degree of air pollution and the higher the potential health risks.

This means we can classify the risk levels into 3 categories:

  1. Values under 50 indicate good air quality with minimal or no potential impact public health.
  2. AQI values of 50 - 100 are generally considered acceptable and a safe level to protect public health.
  3. AQI values above 100 are generally deemed unhealthy, affecting more and more people as the AQI value increases. An AQI value of 300 or higher represents air quality that is so dangerous that it can have severe health consequences.

What about the quality of the air we breathe indoors?

The guidelines and standards of the WHO for indoor air quality include provisions for several important pollutants, including:

  • Benzene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Naphthalene
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Fine particles (PM2.5 and PM10)

Depending on the industry, poor indoor air quality can have various causes due to the different materials being used. However, if you have a warehouse and/or a production facility, you are very likely to inhale concrete dust, which forms due to natural wear and tear on your floor. Rubber dust can also harm your indoor air quality, resulting from the wear and tear of tires, for example on forklifts. Wood dust, plastic dust, and metal dust are also airborne particles that can harm the health of your employees. Possible symptoms include:

  • Dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Blocked sinuses
  • Hypersensitivity and allergies

As you can see, many of these symptoms are very flu-like, making it difficult to determine to what extent indoor air quality is to blame. However, if these symptoms occur within a few hours of starting the workday and subside when leaving the workplace, or if individuals working in the same area of a building exhibit the same symptoms, it is advisable to check the indoor air quality.

 Unfortunately, ignoring poor indoor air quality can have even worse consequences, such as severe respiratory diseases, heart diseases, and cancer. Some of these effects may only manifest years after exposure or prolonged, regular exposure – but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The good news is, you can control your indoor air quality with minimal effort

The AQI helps us understand how dangerous outdoor air can be for our health. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on it for indoor air. To ensure excellent indoor air quality, you need to take appropriate measures.

Conventional methods to improve indoor air quality include wearing masks or using extraction and ventilation systems. However, these methods are not 100 % effective and may not always reduce the risk posed by poor indoor air quality.

But fear not! Zehnder Clean Air Solutions has an immediate and cost-effective solution for your business that can quickly and effortlessly improve your indoor air quality. The magic word is: Ai purifiers!

Curious? Then we are happy to advise you on how our air purifiers can help with:

  • Improving the health of your employees
  • Reducing staff absenteeism
  • Increasing productivity

And of course, taking good care of your employees is a bonus for your employer image! So, don’t waste time. Get in touch and find out how we can help.

Find out more about what makes air quality good or bad and why indoor air matters.

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