Air pollution takes the lives of over 7 million people worldwide every year. In 2012, that accounted for 1 in 8 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Asia-Pacific region, with a dense population of over 4.2 billion people, especially struggle with the effects of air pollution.
Notably, periodic haze and smog have become a rising concern, but are people safe when inside their homes and businesses?
No is the simple answer.
In fact, exposure to dangerous pollutants may be greater indoors than anyone had previously expected.
Let’s discuss Asia’s growing indoor IAQ issues, how it’s influenced by outdoor pollution and what radiant cooling and heating systems can do about both.
Outdoor Air Quality in Asia
Large countries like India and China are experiencing mass population shifts from rural communities to cities.
According to Mosaic Science, “The change has contributed to rising emissions from both vehicles and factories, especially coal-fired power plants, and an emerging middle class that increasingly desires a range of consumer goods that are common in Europe and the United States.”
In India, air pollution is the fifth-leading cause of death.
Furthermore, “In May 2014, the WHO said that New Delhi had the worst air of 1,600 cities surveyed worldwide and that rising air pollution had increased the risk of strokes, cancers and heart disease.”
The WHO estimates the following breakdown of deaths due to poor outdoor air quality:
- 40% – ischemic heart disease
- 40% – stroke
- 11% – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- 6% – lung cancer
- 3% – acute lower respiratory infections in children
Therefore, on days when cities experience haze or smog, people are encouraged to stay indoors.
But, can that really prevent the exposure to polluted air?
Bad Outdoor Air = Worse Indoor Air
It turns out that heading indoors isn’t necessarily the better alternative to being outdoors.
Workers and residents can spend upwards of 90 percent of their time indoors.
Why is indoor air so bad today?
In Hong Kong, “Pollutant levels are up to 1,250 per cent higher indoors than outdoors, and PM2.5 fine-particle pollution is worse than beside some of the city’s busiest roads.”
These numbers come from a study out of Baptist University.
The findings shocked scientists.
Although the study focused on kitchens in Hong Kong, it was a great indicator of the issues related to IAQ within the home.
It seems a building’s indoor air quality is only a good as the air quality of the outdoor environment.
The Health Dangers of Poor IAQ
There are long-term and short-term health dangers related to exposure to poor air quality.
People may experience sore throat, dizziness, fatigue, and eye or nose irritation. More symptoms are outlined at length here.
For people with pre-existing health issues, immediate reactions to air pollutants could be deadly. For instance, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) says people living in highly polluted areas are 66 percent more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than those outside of those areas.
In the long-term, those who have sustained exposure to poor IAQ may develop chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases.
Here is the WHO’s IAQ breakdown of deaths by disease:
34% – stroke
26% – ischemic heart disease
22% – COPD
12% – acute lower respiratory infections in children
6% – lung cancer
There is more to poor IAQ than just health concerns.
Now, let’s talk about how IAQ impacts businesses.
Poor IAQ Costs Businesses More
According to a 2007 report out of Helsinki, IAQ affects work performance.
Businesses that mitigated IAQ issues saw significant work performance improvements.
The cost-benefit of improving indoor air temperature and ventilation could reach $700USD per person, per year.
That should be inducement enough to encourage businesses to take IAQ seriously.
What a Building Needs to Do
To improve IAQ, a building needs to be capable of controlling four things: temperature, ventilation, humidity and CO2 levels.
Asia Green Buildings lays out this scenario:
“In a small meeting room with around 10 people and insufficient airflow, the CO2 levels will be too high and the people in the room will feel suffocated and this adversely affects productivity.”
Therefore, enclosed areas require proper ventilation to ensure CO2 levels are stabilized and that workers are given the proper environment to work in.
There is also the issue of perceived comfort.
For a home dweller or office worker to feel comfortable, companies must use technologies to program desirable IAQ parameters.
Every consideration must be made in the building’s design process to utilize temperature controllers, actuators, valves, HVAC systems, radiant systems and more to achieve this goal.
Radiant Cooling and Heating Solves IAQ Issues
Uponor has developed a line of products that address many controllable aspects of IAQ.
Radiant cooling and heating are not particularly innovative or new.
However, the mechanism of running cooled or heated water through pipes in floors and ceilings are one surefire way to improve IAQ.
In contrast to conventional all-air systems, there is an increase in thermal comfort AND energy savings.
How does radiant heating and cooling improve IAQ and related health concerns?
- Mould: Radiant systems discourage condensation, the initial cause of mould.
- Thermal Comfort: Radiant heating and cooling addresses both air temperature and radiant temperature, making people feel cooler at warmer temperatures.
- Outdoor Allergens: If using a Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) along with radiant heating and cooling, allergens are limited and fresh, filtered air is pumped into the space.
In addition to addressing health concerns, Uponor’s radiant products improve building energy performance while ensuring low maintenance costs.
For building and homeowners with budget concerns, this fact can’t be overlooked.
How Radiant Cooling and Heating Improves Environmental Air Quality
“Sustainability” is a word that is thrown around when discussing air quality.
Improving a building’s indoor quality also helps improve the outdoor air quality through the adoption of eco-friendly systems like Uponor’s radiant cooling and heating.
According to Asia Green Buildings, “Recent years have seen a drive by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and National Environment Agency (NEA) to encourage the design and construction of energy efficient buildings. Energy efficient buildings often enjoy significant cost savings because energy cost is typically the biggest component of the total operating cost of a building.”
Because the government is backing such initiatives, engineers and designers should, in turn, see a demand for energy efficient systems from consumers.
Implementing Uponor’s radiant heating and cooling may address the air quality issues connected with population growth. In turn, it makes for safer working and living environments that boost productivity and a company’s success.