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A Guide to Indoor Air Quality

Filed on December 10, 2009

ABU DHABI — On account of climate change and as the country moves into the winter season, Health Authority–Abu Dhabi (HAAD) issued on Monday a health guidance for the public regarding the quality of indoor air.

The guidelines provide information on how to maintain air purity and avoid pollutants which have a significant impact on human health.

“People spend about 90 per cent of their time indoors, yet when asked about air pollution, most people would raise concerns about outdoor air pollution sources such as dust storms, vehicle emissions and industrial sources,” said Dr Oliver Harrison, head of Public Health and Policy at HAAD.

“The quality of indoor air is equally important. Recent research has shown that the quality of indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than that of outdoor air.”

He noted that studies indicate that most modern buildings are built to be energy efficient and do not allow adequate air exchange to reduce concentrations of indoor air pollutants.

“It is therefore helpful to allow fresh outdoor air to circulate through the interior of buildings where a variety of air contaminants may have accumulated,” Harrison said and suggested that the best way to improve indoor air quality is to open windows for 15-30 minutes (unless there is a dust storm) and to perform regular maintenance of air vents. According to HAAD’s guidance, the most significant signs of indoor air quality problems include unusual and noticeable odours, stale or stuffy air, dirty or faulty central heating or air conditioning equipment, dirty or clogged vents, presence of mould and mildew, and frequent headaches or allergy symptoms.

In addition to ambient dust from living in a desert environment, modern lifestyles also contribute to poor indoor air quality on a daily basis.

There are several contaminants that can be found in almost any home that contribute to poor indoor quality and they include smoke from tobacco products; insect or rodent droppings and pesticides. Other contaminants include asbestos, found in old homes, and lead from lead-based paint dust created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning. The authority guidelines said it was imperative that air conditioner ducts are maintained annually.

Contaminants around you

Pet dander (skin flakes) and hair, which can trigger allergy and asthma attacks.

Smoke from cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products

Droppings of cockroaches and other pests, which can become airborne

Insect and rodent pPesticides — used to rid homes of insects, rodents and other pests can contribute to indoor air pollution. Use non-chemical pest control methods of pest control when possible.

Mould and mildew caused by high humidity and poor ventilation Biological contaminants such as moulds and mildew caused by high humidity levels, inadequate ventilation and poorly maintained humidifiers and air conditioners.

Asbestos found in many homes more than 25 years old and is dangerous where damaged or disturbed Sources include deteriorating, damaged or disturbed pipe insulation, fire retardant, acoustical material and floor tiles.

Lead particles released from lead-based paint through sanding or burning dust created when removing paint by sanding, scraping or burning.

Paint, solvents and air fresheners release Household products and furnishings such as paints, solvents, air fresheners, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, aerosol sprays, adhesives and fabric additives used in carpeting andfurniture which can release volatile organic compounds (VOC)

Formaldehyde from durable press draperies and other textiles, adhesives and board products, particle board products such as cabinets and furniture framing, and adhesives.

Carbon monoxide from space heaters, unvented gas stoves, furnaces and water heaters

Central air-conditioning systems----

olivia@khaleejtimes.ae


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