Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a term which refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. IAQ can be affected by gases (including carbon monoxide, radon, volatile organic compounds), particulates, microbial contaminants (mold, bacteria), or any mass or energy stressor that can induce adverse health conditions. Source removal, contaminant control, filtration and the use of ventilation to dilute contaminants are the primary methods for improving indoor air quality in most buildings.
Since the energy crisis of the mid-1970s, indoor air quality has become an increasingly important issue for building owners, facility managers and occupants. The recent increase in indoor air quality complaints can be attributed to a decrease in building ventilation and a higher level of indoor-generated pollutants.
Poor building ventilation is a result of more energy-efficient construction over the past 40 years and the use of mechanical ventilation instead of natural ventilation (windows). The indoor pollutant level has increased because of synthetics in building materials and office furniture, the use of chemical cleaning products, and increased office-equipment use such as copy machines, all of which contribute to chemical and particulate contamination.
Mechanical ventilation equipment can also contribute to indoor-air contamination. In fact, it can be a source of dust, mold, bacteria and viruses. Improperly located air intake ducts will bring outside pollutants into the indoor environment also.
Building occupants are an additional source of pollutants. Our metabolic processes are a source of many different volatile organic compounds, not to mention perfume, deodorant, hair spray and other grooming products that add contaminants to the indoor air.