Top 5 takeaways from the Air #WELLography
Top 5 takeaways from the Air #WELLography
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
/ By: Dusan Licina
Have you ever become lightheaded or perhaps just needed to just step outside for fresh air? The air we breathe directly impacts our health and well-being, and the Air WELLography is your go-to guide for air quality education and research-based interventions to help design built environments with maximum levels of air quality. In addition to providing information on the effects of air quality, this WELLography offers solutions on how to better leverage air quality within buildings to promote human health and well-being.
Here’s what you can find in the Air WELLography:
Invisible and odorless, but so important! We spend most of our time in enclosed spaces – in homes, offices, schools, public transports or other building environments. During this time, we are exposed to a myriad of air contaminants, including biological agents and chemical pollutants. Such tiny and invisible air contaminants, easily enter our body through inhalation. In fact, we breathe more than 15,000 liters (530 ft3) of air every single day.1 By looking at our daily ingestion chart, we can see that humans consume 4 times more air than food and liquid together! People are often unaware of this fact simply because the air that we breathe is invisible and usually odorless. Read more about the makeup of our atmosphere and how it interacts with the human body in the WELLography.
You are what you breathe. Respiration is necessary to live. Unfortunately, the same process that sustains us is also an opportunity for airborne pathogens and natural and man-made pollutants to enter our body. In the most recent global burden of disease study, household air pollution was rated as the third most important cause of ill health for the world’s population.2 Health effects associated with exposure to indoor air pollutants can be short- and long-term and can range in severity. Researchers have also identified a clear relationship between indoor air quality and human productivity in buildings.3 On average, 10% productivity loss could be attributable to health issues related to poor indoor air quality in office buildings in the U.S.4 Sick leave attributed to insufficient provision of fresh air in buildings is estimated to be 35% of total absenteeism.5 This translates into an enormous economic loss! By provision of adequate ventilation in buildings, our productivity can be improved up to 29%, while inadequate ventilation practices lead to 15% productivity decrease.6 The Air WELLography offers an in-depth look at the intersections of indoor air quality and individual performance.
What’s in the air? Indoor air pollutants are commonly broken up into biological and non-biological elements. Biological pollutants are by-products of living organisms, including plants, animals, pests, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, which may become airborne and eventually inhaled. Non-biological air pollutants are usually derived from commercial, industrial, residential, or transport-related activities, including chemical waste and fossil fuel emissions. Pollutants of non-biologic origin include particulate matter (dust, asbestos, environmental tobacco smoke), organic gases (formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds) and inorganic gases (carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, radon). Refresh your memory on the elements of indoor air contaminants and learn how they affect our health in the Elements of Particulate Matter and Gases section of the WELLography.
Know your sources. Did you know that levels of common indoor air contaminants can be 2-5 times (and even up to 100 times) higher than outdoor levels?7 The most common indoor air contaminants are combustion sources, such as candles, tobacco smoke, stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces that release pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and small particles into the air.8 Building materials, furnishings, fabrics, cleaning products, personal care products, and air fresheners can all emit volatile organic compounds or semi-volatile organic compounds into the indoor environment.9 Outdoor air can also influence indoor exposure with pollutants that enter buildings through building openings. In addition, when we enter a building, we inadvertently bring in dust on our clothing, shoes and skin from the outdoors, along with pollutants that adhere to those particles.10 Take a deep dive into where air pollutants come from and strategies that may reduce their proliferation in the indoor environment in the Air WELLography.
Sources of air pollution indoors
Achieving the goal of clean indoor air requires professionals and building users to get involved not just in the conversation but also in the implementation of adequate approaches. Indoor air quality can be properly managed primarily through source control strategies, but also through adequate design solutions and human behaviour. To learn more about intersections between built environment and indoor air quality, their relationship to productivity, well-being and health, and holistic design strategies to promote clean air and minimize human exposure to harmful contaminants, download our new WELL app, Build WELL.
To learn more about the Air concept and the WELLography series please view our Introduction to Air, Materials and Water WELLographies Webcast here: https://www.wellcertified.com/node/3717
1. Mcdowell J. (2011). Encyclopedia of Human Body Systems, Volumes 1-2. Greenwood, ISBN: 0313391750.
2. Lim SS, Theo V, Flaxman AD, et al. (2010). A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet 380 (9859): 2224-2260.
3. Wargocki P, Wyon DP, Sundell J, Clausen G, Fanger P. (2000). The effects of outdoor air supply rate in an office on perceived air quality, sick building syndrome (SBS) symptoms and productivity. Indoor Air 10 (4): 222-236.
4. Dorgan, CE and Dorgan, CB. (2005). Assessment of link between productivity and indoor air quality. In: Creating the productive workplace. D. Clements-Croome, 2nd ed., E and FN Spon, London, 113-135.
5. Milton DK, Glencross PM, Walters MD. (2000). Risk of sick leave associated with outdoor air supply rate, humidification, and occupant complaints. Indoor Air 10 (4): 212-221.
6. Wyon D. (1996). Indoor environmental effects on productivity, Proceedings of Indoor Air conference 1996, Nagoya, Japan.
7. Environmental Protection Agency, by Lance Wallace. (1987). The total exposure assessment methodology (TEAM) study: Summary and analysis I. EPA 600/6-87/002a.
8. California Air Resourced Board. Combustion Pollutants.
9. Wallace LA, Pellizzari E, Leaderer B, Zelon H, Sheldon L. (1967). Emissions of volatile organic compounds from building materials and consumer products. Atmospheric Environment 21 (2): 385-393.
10. Licina D, Tian Y, Nazaroff WW. (2017). Emission rates and the personal cloud effect associated with particle release from the perihuman environment. Indoor Air 27 (4): 791–802.