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Cooped Up Inside

Posted: November 26, 2013

What is indoor air quality and how do cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products affect it? Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a measure of how clean the air is inside structures where we live, work and play. And what happens in one part of a building affects all of the building's occupants.

When determining the IAQ of a given space, temperature, humidity, ventilation, and chemical or biological contaminants in the air are considered. Because many people spend up to twenty-two hours a day indoors whether it’s in the home, child care facility, school, or workplace, it’s extremely important to take steps to ensure the indoor air is safe to breathe for people of all ages.

While there are many different factors that can influence the quality of the air, a few common ones include the building’s ventilation system, the presence of pests, furniture and building materials used, and chemicals used within the building. Indoor sources of pollutants include gas and wood burning stoves and heaters, cigarette smoke, pesticides, and cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting products. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases that evaporate, or “off-gas,” into the air from common items such as cleaning products, solvents, and glues and adhesives found in furniture and building materials. These indoor air pollutants can contribute to immediate health issues like asthma attacks, headaches and dry eyes, and long-term health problems such as cancer. How can the inside air be made healthier to breathe?

Building ventilation

  • Open windows and doors to allow outside air to come inside.
  • Maintain the building’s heating, cooling, and ventilation system; make sure there is enough outside air coming in, it’s well circulated, and the temperature is appropriate for the time of year.
  • Use exhaust fans when cooking.

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting procedures

  • Follow a green cleaning program using safer, less hazardous products.
  • Use only the amount of cleaning product needed to complete the task.
  • Disinfect only when and where required.
  • Avoid using scented/fragranced products.
  • Read the label and follow the directions of all products.
  • Don’t mix cleaning products, especially bleach and ammonia products. A toxic gas may result.
  • Dispose of old or unused chemicals properly. Locate a local hazardous household waste drop off location using earth911.com.

Reducing pesticide use

  • Follow an integrated pest management plan, not monthly spraying.
  • Focus on preventative measures: keep pests out and remove food, water, and shelter.
  • Communicate with the person in charge of pest management.
  • The least toxic pesticides should be used, and only when necessary. Remember only a licensed pesticide applicator can apply a pesticide in a child care facility and it’s illegal for any other person to bring in a pesticide from home and use it!

For more information about how cleaning practices can affect indoor air quality, check out the fact sheet “What is indoor air quality and how is it affected by cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting?” from Green Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting: A Toolkit for Early Care and Education.

For more information on preventing pests and keeping your home, school, or child care healthy and safe, visit the website of the Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management Program. Like us on Facebook. Twitter users can follow us at handle @PAIPM.