The interest in indoor air quality (IAQ) has increased rapidly during the last couple of years, with the development of the Covid-19 pandemic playing a key role. Even before working from home became the new normal, people were spending more time indoors, and since the beginning of the pandemic, this has expanded further still. Another thing that has happened during the last two years is that more people are spending more time in one place and / or space. In this case, it is the home.
This has led to keener interest in indoor comfort and placed a magnifying glass on what indoor air quality is and how it affects us.
What is indoor air quality?
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines indoor air quality as:
“the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants”
With IAQ having health and comfort implications for occupants, home and business owners want to learn more about what influences poor IAQ and how to take better control of it. In nearly every indoor space imaginable there are chemicals, objects and furnishings that give off gases, also known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.
Some common sources of indoor air pollutants as highlighted by ASHRAE include:
- Household cleaning products
- Toiletries and personal care products
- Paints, paint stripper and other decorating materials
- New carpets, floors and some wooded furniture
- Burning fuels / gas stove
Depending on the type of indoor air pollution sources, the effects of poor indoor air quality can manifest immediately or even years later. Some are more hazardous than others because they release pollutants constantly, but any indoor pollutant becomes increasingly dangerous as it accumulates. IAQ is also affected by temperatures and humidity, which can lead to mold and bacteria growing, further heightening the impact on health and comfort, as well as high levels of CO2
Health problems associated with poor IAQ range from irritated eyes and nose through to nausea, dizziness and fatigue, signs of something called Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), however it affects people differently and in some cases the symptoms will fade on leaving.
Indoor Air Quality and Children
Poor IAQ affects us all and the risk of developing symptoms of SBS, is the same whether at home, the office, in a hotel or gym or at school.
The WHO reports that, “more than 40% of the world’s population – which includes 1 billion children under 15 - is exposed to high levels of household air pollution from mainly cooking with polluting technologies and fuels”.
Children are at particular risk of health issues due to poor IAQ when they are younger and their bodies are developing. They also breathe in a greater amount of air and breathe more rapidly than adults, and so potentially inhale more pollutants. The adverse effects of poor IAQ extends beyond health and can have repercussions on child education and their ability to learn.
Bad Air Quality Symptoms
Just like adults, children are susceptible to headaches, allergic reactions and respiratory problems, including triggering asthma. Alongside developing sick building syndrome symptoms, there are other concerning ways that poor IAQ impacts child education, whether at home or at school, including:
- Increased hyperactivity and poor focus
- Difficulties in memorizing
- Reduced cognitive performance
- Leads to poor sleeping habits
How to Improve Air Quality for Children’s Education at Home or at School
While this is perhaps concerning to read, there are measures that can be taken to combat indoor air pollution and improve air quality at home and at school. Better still, many of the steps that can be taken to protect children and create healthier environments for studying and learning are relatively simple. Below, talk you through what can be done to minimize the impact of indoor air pollutants, including specialized Hitachi air conditioning solutions.
Removal or control of VOC sources
If possible, take actions that will reduce or remove the source of the air pollution as a first step. It can be as easy as sealing a container correctly or could require more effort if it is furnishings or fixtures that are part of the problem.
Any sealed space needs to be ventilated regularly or have a constant supply of outdoor air entering the room. When a space has windows and doors closed for too long, pollutants, humidity and temperatures increase, creating an uncomfortable and unhealthy environment. Replenishing spaces with fresh air greatly reduces the effects of SBS and increases comfort.
Use Air Conditioning to Improve Comfort
For homes, Hitachi Residential Air Conditioners can help improve indoor thermal comfort by regulating the temperature of spaces. Also, as a standard, most Hitachi Residential Air Conditioners feature Dry Mode which helps remove and reduce excess humidity. By controlling these two factors alone, indoor thermal comfort can be greatly improved as well as improving indoor air quality.
Throughout the Hitachi air conditioning ranges, specialized filters are available.
Hitachi PM2.5 Wasabi Air Purifying Filter** is a PM 2.5 filter that provides powerful antibacterial (*1), anti-allergen (*2), anti-mold (*3), and deodorizing(*3) properties when combined with the Hitachi Cooling & Heating standard Stainless-Steel Pre-Filter (*4), and can remove up to 99% of the most common bacteria and allergens
Hitachi UV Fresh** emits shortwave ultraviolet light onto the Hitachi indoor unit filters from an internal LED, neutralizing 99% (*5) of bacteria trapped, keeping the inside of your unit clean and reducing the possibility of odors forming.
Hitachi FrostWash™** is a technology that minimizes the amount of dust, mold and bacteria on your Hitachi air conditioner’s heat exchanger. Using FrostWash reduces their presence by up to 93% (*6) and it traps the dust and dirt that lands on the heat exchanger by freezing in moisture that’s generated during normal operation. The frost is then thawed and flushed hygienically out of the unit, carrying the dust, mold and bacteria with it. Thanks to this function, up to 99% of viruses are removed when Hitachi FrostWash is used.
Filter Health is also important in helping maintain a healthy air conditioner and improving indoor air quality. We share tips on how to clean your Hitachi air conditioner’s filter.
Ventilation and Air Renewal Systems
Some spaces are best served by a system that draws fresh air from outside and the Hitachi Ventilation and Air Renewal range features units that can be used alone or incorporated into and Hitachi indoor unit using fresh-air port technology. For example:
Hitachi Active KPI** – Pre-treating the outside air and adjusting the temperature before it goes into circulation, this unit delivers fresh, clean air into the space and maximizes the occupant's comfort by helping reduce the buildup of CO2.
Hitachi Econofresh** – This air renewal unit not only draws fresh air indoors but it also helps reduce operational costs. It does so using Free Cooling mode which cools indoor spaces with outside air.
Whether at home or at school, the importance of safe and healthy indoor air quality for children is essential.
If you want to learn more about the Hitachi ranges for homeowners and business, click here.
*1 Wasabi Air Purifying Filter tested by University Putra Malaysia.
*2 Wasabi Air Purifying Filter tested by International Medical University Malaysia.
*3 Wasabi Air Purifying Filter tested by Nanopac Testing Lab.
*4 Stainless Steel System tested by the Hitachi Environmental Test Laboratory.
*5 UV Fresh tested by Japan Food Research Laboratories.
*6 Used model:RAK-35RPE / RAC-35WPE Tested by Kitasato Research Center of Environmental Science. Test No. 2019_0154: Reduction effects of Bacteria and Mold were observed by operating FrostWash™ once.
** Please check your local website for availability in your region
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