The quality of the air we breathe can have a huge impact on our health and well-being. Indoor pollutants can trigger a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms may appear immediately or at a later stage, depending on the type of pollutant and the length of exposure. They may also depend on pre-existing conditions, such as immune system function or genetic susceptibility. Poor IAQ can result in headaches, sneezing, eye and nose irritation, coughing, skin problems and fatigue. In some cases, prolonged exposure to certain pollutants can lead to more serious diseases like Legionnaires’ Disease or respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
A large number of contaminants are present in indoor environments, mainly from sources such as human activity and emissions from motor vehicles and other stationary sources. These pollutants include particulate matter PM2.5, nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds, such as formaldehyde and phenol. They are generated by building occupants, furnishings and cleaning products; solvents and disinfectants; paints and glues; wood burning stoves and furnaces; and even tobacco smoke.
In addition to these sources, indoor air quality in Winnipeg can be impacted by weather conditions and climate change, as well as the state of the building and its ventilation systems. For example, in a cold environment with low humidity levels, the presence of mould and bacteria can be exacerbated. Mould growth can cause health issues such as allergies, asthma and irritated eyes and throat. In some cases, it can be a source of significant financial costs.
The city of Winnipeg is home to many industries and its residents are exposed to a wide variety of contaminants. Some are caused by human activity, and others are a natural result of the city’s geography and climate. PM2.5 is one of the primary culprits, largely due to heavy industry and vehicle traffic.
Other factors that affect the quality of indoor air in Winnipeg include moisture and high temperatures. Moisture and humidity problems can lead to the growth of mould, which can be a significant health hazard in both homes and commercial buildings. It can also contribute to an unpleasant or uninhabitable atmosphere, and damage interior finishes.
In the winter, the quality of indoor air in Winnipeg can be compromised by outdoor pollution. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is another problem, caused by inefficient or faulty gas burning equipment. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that is fatal in high concentrations. It is produced by furnaces, water heaters, stoves and other equipment that burn oil, gas, wood or propane. Installing CO detectors and regular maintenance of fuel burning equipment can prevent this from happening.
A lot of money has been set aside to improve indoor air quality in schools during the pandemic, but it might not be enough. Experts, such as Matthew Froese, a mechanical engineer in building commissioning, say that basic maintenance could be the most effective way to make a difference. He said that while duct cleaning is not recommended for school buildings, fixing any broken parts in ventilation systems would be.