While numerous studies show that indoor environmental quality (IEQ) plays a crucial role in occupant health, wellbeing, and productivity, still there are a number of myths surrounding IEQ that when not addressed, can potentially lead to misunderstandings and can compromise the quality of our indoor spaces.

In this article, we’ll help you separate IEQ facts from fiction and shed light on the information that truly matters.

Myth 1: Plants alone can solve indoor environmental quality issues

Fact: While indoor plants, according to the NASA study in 1989 and the research conducted by the  University of Birmingham in 2022, can contribute to improving IEQ, there also are several studies revealing that plants don’t improve indoor environmental quality that much and that you would need a great number of plants to make a difference. Apart from indoor plants, adequate ventilation and the ability to address specific pollutant sources are crucial from maintaining a healthy indoor environment. 

Myth 2: The “new building smell” indicates a healthy indoor environment

Fact: The distinct smell often associated with new buildings, known as “off-gassing,” is a result of common product emissions, including formaldehyde and other types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some materials used to build, furnish, and maintain our buildings can be a source of these emissions. These emissions can contribute to poor indoor environments and can cause eye and throat irritation, and respiratory illnesses.

Myth 3: Indoor environmental quality only pertains to air quality 

Fact: Indoor environmental quality encompasses various factors beyond air quality, including lighting, thermal comfort, acoustics, and ergonomics. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in creating a comfortable and productive indoor environment.

Myth 4: Opening windows alone promotes adequate ventilation

Fact: While opening windows is a good practice, it may not always provide adequate ventilation, especially in urban areas with high outdoor pollution levels. Mechanical ventilation systems, such as HVAC systems with proper filters, are essential for ensuring consistent and effective air exchange.

Myth 5: Indoor environmental quality only matters in offices

Fact: IEQ is vital in all indoor spaces, including schools, restaurants, commercial spaces, and recreational areas. Ensuring a healthy indoor environment is crucial for everyone, regardless of the setting.

Why do we have to separate IEQ facts from fiction and clarify misconceptions? 

  • Poor beliefs about IEQ can lead to suboptimal indoor environments, which may negatively impact occupants’ health and well-being. Clarifying IEQ misconceptions helps individuals and organizations make informed decisions to create healthier working spaces.
  • Accurate information is essential for making effective decisions related to building design, construction, and maintenance. By dispelling myths, stakeholders can implement measures that genuinely improve IEQ without wasting resources on ineffective or unnecessary solutions.
  • Some misconceptions may lead to the adoption of practices that can be harmful. For example, relying solely on indoor plants for air purification might divert attention from other critical aspects of IEQ. Clarifying IEQ misconceptions and myths helps prevent potential harm and guides individuals toward evidence-based strategies.
  • An accurate understanding of IEQ contributes to sustainable practices. By debunking myths, individuals can focus on measures that genuinely improve sustainability and energy efficiency, leading to more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient buildings.

Separating IEQ facts from myths is essential for making informed decisions about our indoor environments. By dispelling the common misconceptions discussed above, we can prioritize actions that genuinely contribute to creating healthy, comfortable, and productive indoor spaces for all.

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