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Does Your Building's IAQ Contribute to Asthma?

Does Your Building's IAQ Contribute to Asthma?

By: Robert Martin, CAFS, Associate Category Manager, Kimberly-Clark Professional Filtration  |   07.09.15

Asthma is a serious medical problem affecting nearly 26 million Americans1, including 7.1 million children1. Chances are good that there’s at least one asthma sufferer in your school or workplace. Not only do asthmatics have higher medical bills, they also have higher rates of absenteeism, lower productivity, and in the case of children, reduced learning. If your building has poor indoor air quality (IAQ), it could be contributing to the problem. 

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed. These effects are usually temporary, but they cause shortness of breath, breathing trouble, and other symptoms. If an asthma episode is severe, a person may need emergency treatment to restore normal breathing. Asthma is responsible for nearly 479,000 hospital stays each year1

Poor IAQ significantly influences the occurrence of asthma symptoms. Allergens in the air, such as dust mites, pet dander, pollens and mold are common triggers of asthma symptoms. Other airborne irritant triggers include strong fumes or odors from household sprays, paint, gasoline, perfumes and scented soap. 

What is the Scope of the Problem?

The annual cost of asthma is estimated to be nearly $56 billion in direct costs plus lost earnings due to illness or death1

For adults, asthma is a leading cause of work absenteeism and presenteeism, resulting in nearly 15 million missed or less productive work days each year, at a cost of roughly $2 billion1

For children, asthma is a leading cause of absenteeism due to a chronic condition, accounting for nearly 13 million2 missed school days per year. An average of one out of ten school-age children has asthma. 

What Can I Do to Reduce Asthma Triggers in My Building?

IAQ directly impacts student academic performance and health. It also affects work performance and absenteeism among adults. And, as mentioned, poor IAQ significantly influences the occurrence of asthma symptoms. 

Buildings can improve their IAQ by adopting a robust air filtration strategy. Effective air filtration provides an important defense for building occupants against airborne pollutants like asthma triggers. 

When evaluating air filters, it’s important to find filters with high efficiency removing submicron particles. These are the particles that travel to the deepest part of the lungs where they can cause health problems. Filters with electret-treated media have increased capture efficiency for submicron particles. They often provide better performance removing submicron particles than is required by their MERV rating. 

According to an EPA survey, schools with IAQ management programs have led to fewer asthma attacks, fewer visits to the school nurse and lower absenteeism. 

Good IAQ via effective air filtration also benefits tenants in commercial buildings: Studies have found that work performance improves by as much as 16 percent when indoor pollutant sources are removed. In workplaces, measures that result in only small improvements in performance or absence will often be cost-effective because employee costs far exceed the costs of maintaining good IAQ. 

For more information on asthma, visit the American Lung Association


1-Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

2-Environmental Protection Agency



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