In this article our indoor air quality specialists highlight the health benefits of allowing more fresh air indoors. While it may seem a very simple technique, it has been shown to be cost efficient, quick and highly effective at improving air quality both in the home and at work.
How fresh air can improve health and wellbeing
It’s all around us when we step over the threshold and go outside into the great outdoors – fresh air. But strangely, the same air quality standards outside aren’t always the same as those we enjoy inside our homes or workplaces. Being indoors, at home, is something we’ve all done a lot more of over recent years, so it’s essential to ensure that the air we are breathing at home or at work is as fresh as it can be, and not in any way detrimental to our health.
Although we spend the bulk of our indoors time at home, many of us spend a significant percentage of our time in other indoor places too, such as the office, public buildings, shops and other settings. All of these places are locations where we potentially spend many hours a day, working or spending time with lots of other people close by, especially in a work environment.
Fresh air is vital in our homes and workplaces
Discussions about indoor air quality and ventilation rates have been brought to the fore by the Covid-19 pandemic, but even before the virus hit our shores, governments and health authorities were trying to put measures in place to tackle health problems caused by poor air quality in our homes and workplaces.
In the UK everyone remembers that famous slogan from the Covid-19 pandemic – Hands, Face, Space. What is less remembered is that the government tagged “and Fresh Air” on to the end of the slogan to recognise that good air quality was just as important as washing your hands and keeping out of the way of your colleagues when possible.
More fresh air can help limit the spread of colds, flu and other illnesses
Although the Covid pandemic brought issues caused by poorly-ventilated buildings into sharp relief, ensuring a good supply of fresh air into buildings is important in non-pandemic times too. Good levels of ventilation and fresh air won’t just limit other infections and viruses from spreading among your family or staff, it will also improve the overall indoor working or living environment too.
Previously, many businesses only considered indoor air quality in terms of temperature, ensuring that employees weren’t too hot or too cold in the course of their working day. But over the last few years we’ve all become experts in how viruses and infections spread, and this has brought indoor air quality back to the top of the agenda for families and business owners around the UK. Luckily, there are lots of steps which you can take to improve indoor air quality in both domestic and commercial settings.
Can fresh air improve indoor air quality?
This idea that we’re all more focused and educated about air quality is reinforced by a survey from an innovative air quality technology company, which found that 56% of the population think more about air quality now than they did a few years ago. This is especially the case at a time when parts of the UK economy are still emerging from coronavirus restrictions, and we’re all starting to spend more time again in groups, inside.
Despite the general awareness of air quality, there is a similar percentage of people – 53% – who don’t believe that the air quality inside venues such as restaurants, bars or pubs could have any effect on their health at all. This is despite all of the reports in the press over the last few years about meeting up outside, or limiting the numbers in indoor spaces.
Can air conditioning improve indoor air quality?
Another very common misconception is that an air conditioning system is just as good as fresh air when it comes to health and air quality. Most people believe that air conditioning works by ventilating indoor areas, by filtering out any nasty particles in the air before pumping it back around the office or factory. This is only partly true.
Air conditioning systems aren’t designed to deliver fresh, clean air. Many air conditioning systems just draw air from one part of a building, chill it, and then pump it back into another part of the building. This could have the opposite effect to cleansing, as it could just mean pumping bacteria and other airborne pathogens from one part of a building into another. The only way of improving the air quality inside a building is by drawing in more fresh air from the outside, rather than merely pumping stale air repeatedly around the building.
Can air conditioning make you ill?
The main risk posed to heath from air conditioning systems is from biofilm. Biofilm is formed when colonies of living bacteria grow on surfaces. Biofilm can thrive inside air conditioning systems, especially in locations where the air conditioning isn’t properly maintained or thoroughly cleaned out regularly to make sure it is fit for purpose. If you are working or living in a building where there has been growth of bacteria, viruses or mould within the air conditioning or heating systems, then this is what may be flowing through the air which you and your colleagues are breathing.
Stale air can also have health impacts for people who suffer from allergies, such as dust mites, allergens from pet hair or mould spores around the house.
Can fresh air improve indoor air quality?
These potential impacts on our health and wellbeing all sound very dramatic, but the good news is that there is one very simple measure which can help improve indoor air quality – opening a window.
In colder months where the outside temperature is much lower than in the house or workplace, many householders and business owners are understandably reluctant to do this. However, in the warmer months of the year there really is no better option than to open the windows and doors to allow stale air to flow out of buildings, and allow fresh air to flow in.
A number of leading European countries are leading the field when it comes to recommendations about indoor ventilation. For example, homes and offices in several countries now promote a simple method of getting fresh air into buildings, known as cross-ventilation. The practice of cross-ventilation involves opening all windows and doors in a building, morning and evening, for 5 – 10 minutes. The cross-ventilation effect allows stale air to flow out of the building, which is then replaced by fresh air from outdoors. It’s a simple enough idea, but one which can make a real difference to the quality of the air inside buildings.
Specialist air quality management solutions
WTS offer a range of specialist indoor air quality management solutions to support businesses and those responsible for the workplace environments.
Contact us today to learn how our air quality experts can help you manage your internal workplace environments, maintain regulatory compliance and so keep people safe.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained technicians and engineers we can offer specialist indoor air quality assessments, air testing and other risk management solutions throughout the UK and Internationally.
Contact us today to learn how our expert air quality management solutions can help you.