Indoor Air-Quality and Covid-19

At COIT, we believe that indoor air quality is an important aspect of any healthy home and business and the CDC agrees especially because COVID-19 viral particles spread between people more readily indoors than outdoors. Other contaminants ranging from cigarette smoke to allergens, chemicals from paint or glues, or outdoor pollutants that travel through windows, can affect the quality of clean indoor air.  According to the Daily Green, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates people spend 90% of their time indoors, but indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.  So if you care about COVID-19 or other pollutants that can end up in your lungs, it’s just as important to guard your indoor air quality as the outdoor environmental air. Reoccupying a building during the COVID-19 pandemic should not, in most cases, require new building ventilation systems. However, ventilation system upgrades or improvements can increase the delivery of clean air and dilute potential contaminants. Consult experienced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals when considering changes to HVAC systems and equipment. The American Lung Association and the CDC offers numerous tips for protecting indoor air, including:

Covid-19 Air Quality Tips

  • Open outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings to reduce or eliminate HVAC air recirculation. 
  • Ventilate your rooms well.  Open windows when safe and possible, and install venting for appliances and in unvented bathrooms.  Make sure all vents connect to the outdoors.  Fireplaces and wood or gas stoves must also be vented properly to the outside, because they can produce carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and fine particle pollution, and other toxic air pollutants.
    • Use fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows
  • Rebalance or adjust HVAC systems to increase total airflow to occupied spaces when possible.
  • Turn off any demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) controls that reduce air supply based on occupancy or temperature during occupied hours. In homes and buildings where the HVAC fan operation can be controlled at the thermostat, set the fan to the “on” position instead of “auto,” which will operate the fan continuously, even when heating or air-conditioning is not required.
  • Inspect and maintain exhaust ventilation systems in areas such as kitchens, cooking areas, etc.
  • In non-residential settings, consider running the HVAC system at maximum outside airflow for 2 hours before and after the building is occupied.

Other Air Quality Improvement Tips

  • Don’t smoke indoors, and don’t let anyone else smoke indoors.  Period.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors to monitor your indoor environment for this deadly gas, and have your home tested for radon.  Four hundred people die from carbon monoxide poisoning annually, and radon gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke.
  • Have your home inspected for asbestos, and have any asbestos professionally removed.
  • Don’t idle your car or run the engine inside the garage.  Burning gas or other fuels can release dangerous levels of indoor air pollutants and carbon monoxide.
  • Use Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints.  Many paints release trace amounts of gases for months after application, even after that “new paint smell” has disappeared.
  • Have your home inspected for lead paint.  If lead paint in found but is in good condition, it might be best not to disturb it (consult an expert for advice).  Any lead paint removal should be handled professionally.
  • Fix leaks.  The connection between leaky faucets or pipes and air pollution might not be obvious, but moist environments are a breeding ground for mold.  Dampness alone can cause wheezing, coughing, and asthma symptoms.
  • If you use air conditioners and dehumidifiers, clean and service them on a regular basis according to manufacturer instructions.  COIT offers Air Duct Cleaning services that will remove dust and other contaminants from your air duct system to help you improve your Indoor Air Quality.
  • Fight dust mites in your home by maintaining humidity levels below 50%, vacuuming carpets and upholstery on a regular basis (in-between regularly scheduled professional carpet and upholstery cleanings, using dust mite resistant coverings, and regularly washing bedding in very hot water.
  • Avoid dry cleaning whenever possible, because of the chemicals used in most dry cleaning processes.  Purchase clothing that can be laundered in a machine or by hand, and if you do visit a dry cleaner, choose one that offers eco-friendly cleaning, and air clothes outside for a while before you bring them indoors. 
  • Be aware of formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen and can be present in disinfectants, adhesive or bonding agents, insecticides, urea formaldehyde foam insulation and particle board.  Choose urea formaldehyde-free building materials for any renovation.
  • Avoid pesticide use by learning about Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products in your home.
  • Don’t rely on air purifiers; they can help reduce the presence of some tiny airborne particles, but aren’t as effective against gases or humidity.

By paying attention to your Indoor Air Quality, you’ll be taking a big step toward keeping your family’s home environment clean and healthy from Covid-19 and numerous other pathogens.

To learn more or schedule an appointment call a COIT professional today!