What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?

The quality of the air you breathe can vary considerably, depending on the gasses, particles and microorganisms contained within it. Often it is assumed that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is high because it is ‘protected’ from the outdoors. In fact, the reverse is often true. Ignorance about indoor air quality, lack of monitoring and poor maintenance of HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) systems all contribute.

The air circulated by your air conditioning system is the most common source of complaints such as sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, fatigue and irritation to the eyes, nose, throat and skin.

Poor Indoor Air Quality can lead to sick building syndromeExposure to indoor air pollutants has increased over the past two decades, resulting from the construction of tightly sealed buildings, an increase in electrical / electronic equipment such as PCs and printers as well as the use of synthetic building materials and furnishings that slowly release pollutants.

Inadequate maintenance of internal air systems further escalates indoor air quality problems. Lack of servicing, lax cleaning schedules, deterioration of system components and poor design are common occurrences. This leads to a build up of dust, mould, bacteria and pollutants that are circulated throughout the building.

Recent scientific research now shows that modern populations typically spend 80-90% of their time indoors. Further, indoor air is on average 4 times more polluted than outside, with short and long term exposure affecting the health of those exposed.

Sick Building Syndrome
Sick building syndrome is a combination of symptoms and complaints associated with a place of work or home, mostly related to poor indoor air quality. Over 50 possible symptoms are known and it is possible for many sick occupants to report a wide range of individual symptoms, which appear unconnected. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Eye, nose or throat irritation
  • Dry cough; dry or itchy skin
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to odours
  • Increased incidence of asthma attacks/appearance of asthma in non-asthmatics
  • Personality changes such as anger/weeping/paranoia/depression
  • Putative cases of bronchitis or pneumonia which do not respond to antibotic treatment


Study Occupants Surveyed Building occupants with symptoms (%) Reported symptoms
McKenna 1990 (Aust Capital Territory) 511 91% Too hot, drowsiness, headaches, sore throat
Dingle and Olden 1992 (Perth) 44 65%  Fatigue, sore throat, dry eyes
Rowe and Wilkie 1994 (New South Wales) Unknown 45%  Too hot/cold, general symptoms
Mesaros 1995 (Tasmania) 668 80% Fatigue, nausea, dizziness, sore throat
Brown 1997 (Victoria) Unknown 62-72%  General symptoms, stuffy air
Mesaros 1999 (Tasmania) 265 85%  Fatigue, stuffy nose, headache, eye irritation
Source: Dingle and Olden 1992, Rowe and Wilkie 1994, Mesaros 1995, Mesaros 1999

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