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We all know that air pollution has negative impacts on our health (stats on outdoor air pollution especially any increase…or maybe not). So, we shut our doors and windows, seal up vents to block outdoor air pollutants and crank up the air-conditioning.

But, what you face indoors may be even more damaging. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution can be two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.

Effects of poor indoor air quality

If you think air quality just affects your breathing and respiratory system, think again.

Immediate and short-term consequences of poor indoor air quality include the following symptoms:

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Throat irritation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nosebleeds
  • Skin rashes
  • Chest and muscle pain
  • Fever and chills

Over time, long-term or repeated exposure to indoor air pollutant can result in serious medical conditions ranging from asthma and other respiratory diseases to heart disease and cancer, which can be severely debilitating or fatal.

Common causes of poor indoor air quality (especially from AC systems)

Common air pollutants threats and sources include:

  • Biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, pet dander, house dust and mites, urine and droppings of pests like cockroaches and rats as well as mould and mildew
  • Emissions from improperly vented kitchen appliances like gas stoves, as well as outdoor emissions and pollutants that are inadvertently brought in or that leak in through ventilation and air-conditioning units
  • Environmental tobacco smoke from second-hand and third-hand smoke with its toxic brew of thousands of harmful substances
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and other chemicals from 
    • household and other consumer products including aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners, fertilisers, pesticides, glues, paint, varnishes, solvents and even dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners  
    • building materials and furnishings such as carpeting, drapes, upholstery 

In recent years, the focus has been on particulate matter (PM) as a topic of interest, specifically, small particles that measure 2.5 to 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10) and those that are 2.5 micrometres in diameter or smaller (PM2.5). 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a close relationship has been established between exposure to PM10 and PM2.5 particles with increased mortality and morbidity. PM10 particles have been found to penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. But, even more damaging are PM2.5 particles, which can penetrate the lung barrier and enter the blood system contributing to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer.

Ways to improve indoor air quality (including AC and related innovations + regular servicing and maintenance)

To improve the quality of the air you breathe at home, here are three basic strategies – source control, improved ventilation and air cleaning.

Source control

The easiest, most effective and least expensive way to enhance good indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or reduce their emission.

Good housekeeping habits and regular dusting and cleaning, minimising the use of household chemicals, store toxic or volatile compounds out of the occupiable space, banning or limiting combustion sources such as candles and incense and especially smoking, as well as reducing the use of unvented appliances. These are some source-specific control tactics that you should adopt regularly.

Improved ventilation

Another approach to reducing concentrations of air pollutants indoors is to ensure proper ventilation in your home.

For starters, vent bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, laundry rooms especially those with clothes dryers, directly outdoors, which helps remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants and excess moisture as they are introduced.

When weather and outdoor air quality conditions permit, opening doors and windows to let in more fresh air while turning on fans to increase air circulation can also help promote better indoor air quality.

Another way outdoor air can be brought in to help reduce contaminant is through mechanical means, such as the use of an effective air-conditioning system, which can draw air in through outdoor air intakes.

Air cleaning

The third method of improving indoor air quality is by using air cleaning solutions, which is accomplished by mechanical filters and other electronic air cleaners. 

A good air purifier can be very effective in removing chemicals, house dust and even mould, bacteria, viruses and mildew from the air. 

Investing in a top-quality air-conditioning unit with a true HEPA filter rather than the regular paper filters can significantly improve indoor air quality. 

Additionally, some modern air-conditioners are now fitted with technological advancements that are designed to monitor levels of particulate matters, especially the harmful PM10 and PM2.5 particles. Mitsubishi Electric’s latest line of air-conditioners are equipped with air quality sensors that monitor and provide data that can be used to warn those at risk when fine particulate levels rise.

Also, don’t forget to regularly change all filters, such as those in vacuum cleaners, air purifiers and clothing dryers besides the HEPA filter in your air-conditioning system. Make a note to also regularly service and maintain the air-conditioners in your home as well as clean your kitchen vents, bathroom fans and other vents to reduce air pollutants that may be circulating in the air you breathe.

For more interesting facts and informative tips about air conditioning and regulating your indoor climate, please visit Mitsubishi Electric’s microsite.

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