If you suffer from a constant cough or feel like a cold, you could suffer from poor indoor air quality. Poor IAQ is associated with various health issues and can be caused by several different pollutants.

IAQ, or indoor environmental quality, describes how temperature, humidity, pollution and ventilation affect occupant health, comfort and performance.

Source Control

As the population in many areas grows, so do reports of health and comfort problems related to indoor air quality. These include sneezing, coughing and fatigue, often attributed to poor indoor air quality.

Sources of pollutants vary widely. In offices, possible contaminants include environmental tobacco smoke, asbestos from insulating and fire-retardant building materials, formaldehyde from pressed wood products, chemical products used in office equipment and furnishings, cleaning chemicals and restroom air fresheners; biological contaminants that enter contaminated ventilation systems and deposit on previously clean surfaces; and carbon dioxide from automobile exhaust.

HVAC systems may also circulate pollutants from portions of buildings used for specialized purposes, such as restaurants and print shops, into offices. Additionally, microbial contamination of cooling coil drain pans and humidifiers in HVAC systems has been shown to cause various symptoms in occupants.


Inadequate maintenance of ventilation and air-filtration systems may contribute to indoor air quality problems. For example, ductwork must be regularly inspected and cleaned to avoid clogging. This will reduce airflow volume, reducing air quality and distribution. Clogged ducts also become places for bacteria and mold to grow, which can then be distributed throughout the home.

Many pollutants are released continuously, such as those generated by building materials, furnishings and household products like air fresheners. Other contaminants are removed intermittently, such as carbon monoxide from automobile exhaust and unvented gas stoves or water heaters; radon; volatile organic compounds (VOCs); tobacco smoke; and pesticides.

The symptoms induced by these toxins differ from person to person and may not be noticeable, especially if short-term. However, frequent sneezing and coughing are symptoms of an indoor air quality problem that must be addressed. It is better to have a heating and air conditioning Denver professional that will evaluate your indoor air quality and HVAC system before symptoms appear.


Ventilation (outdoor airflow into a building) is required to dilute contaminants, control humidity, and provide other comfort and health-related benefits. This can be achieved either by natural or mechanical means.

One way to determine if the air in your home is adequately ventilated is by measuring the carbon dioxide levels, which human exhalation creates. Levels of CO2 below about 800 parts per million are considered well-ventilated.

To maximize your home’s ventilation rate, increase the number of open windows and use portable air cleaners. This ventilation rate is the minimum needed to dilute indoor pollutants, maintain comfortable thermal conditions and satisfy human occupant requirements. Having your system’s filters checked regularly is also a good idea, as they can become full of pollutants and restrict air flow, causing the HVAC system to work harder.


Many pollutants cause symptoms such as throat irritation, nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes, and headaches. These symptoms can become much more severe for individuals with allergies and asthma.

Microparticles, gaseous contaminants, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are best removed from indoor air via air filtration. Experts recommend putting a high-quality filter in your HVAC system to improve indoor air quality.

Generally, sources of pollution can be eliminated by choosing low-emission building materials and furnishings or by increasing ventilation. Often, this is more cost-effective than increasing the size of air conditioning equipment. However, this is only sometimes possible in larger buildings. In these cases, education of building occupants on air quality issues is important. They can help by opening windows to increase ventilation, switching to low-emission cleaning products and avoiding activities that pollute the air. Additionally, they can guarantee that the size of their heating and cooling systems is appropriate.

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