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Breathe In, Breathe Out: Ensuring Indoor Air Quality

 Few things are as important to our health and well-being as the air we breathe,  especially inside our own homes. That is why it is so important for individual  homeowners as well as management to stay up-to-date on issues of indoor air  quality and ensure that everything possible is done to provide a healthy  environment, especially in the winter months when so many of us are spending  time in the warmth of the indoors.  

 Problem Areas

 Staying warm is always priority one in the winter months. That desire to keep  the cold out and the warmth in can lead to problems, though, with air quality. “Generally people seal out the cold which means their space is not getting enough  fresh outdoor air. The indoor air then gets re-circulated too often causing  some people to get more coughs and colds,” says Steve Gromala, of Altair Associates Inc., a construction management and  consulting firm in Wheaton. “Air not moving at all could possibly create interior window condensation and  frost. Sometimes opening curtains or blinds can alleviate window condensation  to allow air movement.”  

 “During the winter months there may be an air balance issue,” adds Mike Sehring, an estimator with Riverside Mechanical Services in  Frankfort.” You get a certain amount of air flow in rooms, and if a door or window is  closed it would block that space off from the rest of the system. That could  lead to overheating and under heating.”  

 “Windows and doors are typically closed during the winter months and if the air  ventilation system isn’t in good condition or isn’t performing well, the air quality can get stuffy for the occupants and that can  lead up to the buildup of carbon dioxide,” says David O’Dea, senior project manager for Bluestone Environmental Inc., a remediation  company in Bridgeview. “People can get headaches and dizziness from a buildup of carbon dioxide. Carbon  dioxide is a problem during the winter months.”  

 According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, carbon dioxide is a  normal byproduct of exhaled breath and is commonly measured as a screening tool  to evaluate whether adequate volumes of fresh air are being introduced into  indoor air. If carbon dioxide levels are more than 1,000 ppm (parts per  million), there is probably inadequate ventilation; and complaints such as  headaches, fatigue, and eye and throat irritation may be prevalent.  Properly-ventilated buildings should have carbon dioxide levels between 600 ppm  and 1,000 ppm, with a floor or building average of 800 ppm. A high level of carbon dioxide may also indicate that other contaminants in the  building may be present at elevated levels.  

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