We spend most of our time indoors. Thus, it would seem logical that we would want our indoor environment, and especially the air we breathe, to be the best it can be. The following is a list of 8 simple things you can do to improve indoor air quality.
Thermostats – "On" vs. "Auto"
If you look closely at a wall-mounted thermostat, you will notice that it has three settings – ON, OFF, and AUTO. Most of the time, we find these devices set to "AUTO." In “auto” mode, the system will only supply fresh outdoor air when the thermostat demands it, depending on the temperature within the building. If the temperature does not need to be adjusted, no air is supplied. This is one of the most common mistakes related to IAQ found in office settings. Thermostats should always be in the “on” position.
Ditch Air "Fresheners"
Most if not all of the air fresheners on the market are simply cans of chemical contamination. They contain various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), along with unnamed perfumes, odors, and dyes. Many times, these "fragrance" compounds are not listed on the labels. In a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, 25 household products including air fresheners were analyzed for chemical makeup. Results show that these products gave off more than 133 different volatile organic compounds. Twenty-four of these compounds are classified as toxic or hazardous under U.S. law. And perhaps the most surprising part – only ONE of these compounds was listed on any label.
Stacks of papers, books, mail, and the like are havens for numerous contaminants, such as dust, pollen, bacteria, and the like. Trash and garbage can easily lead to bacteria and mold becoming airborne, introducing potential pathogens as well as undesirable odors. Keeping a work are or home clutter-free not only looks better, but helps maintain healthy air quality as well.
Say "No" to Carpets
If the average person could see what is trapped in the fibers of your everyday carpet, they would never have them in their workplace or home. The amount of both organic and inorganic debris that settles into and gets trapped in carpeting is astounding. Mold spores, bacteria, insect parts, pollen, chemicals, dirt, dust mites, and more are constantly building up in carpeted floors. When possible, avoid carpet installation and choose hard surface flooring. It is much easier to clean and sanitize, and can lead to improved indoor air quality.
Many times office space is not designed for a particular company or use. Therefore, the HVAC system is designed in a very straightforward, symmetrical pattern across each floor. However, as those who have worked in offices know, things change as soon as someone moves in. New walls are erected. Cubicle partitions are put up. Walls are removed. Equipment is brought in. All of this affects the performance of the HVAC system. The new partitions or sudden absence of a wall immediately affects the intended air flow patterns envisioned by the original HVAC designers. This is why you sometimes see an air diffuser in a really strange location, or why certain cubicles might get cold air dumped right down on top of them. For these reasons it is important to have an expert reconfigure ventilation systems as part of renovation activities. If necessary, the system may need to be changed, or at least rebalanced in order to maintain adequate indoor air quality.
One might not think that the bushes outside the window can affect indoor air quality – but they can. It is important to keep plants several feet away from the building. This helps prevent the growth of mold on the building's exterior, and also helps prevent root systems from damaging foundations or retaining water right next to the building base. If the foundation gets damaged and the root systems retain water, the moisture is sure to end up inside the building, where mold growth can occur.
Grading is also important. The ground should slope away from the building. This allows rainwater to move away from the foundation and toward a targeted drainage area. If the grading is off, pooling can occur near the building, increasing the chance of water infiltration.
Check HVAC Units
In some buildings, HVAC maintenance is a second or third thought. However, it is imperative that these systems receive proper care and attention, as they are in effect the lungs of the building. Thought should be given to the appropriate type and rating of filters used. These filters should be inspected and replaced routinely. Drip pans and cooling coils should be inspected for dirt, debris, and mold growth. Air dampers should be inspected for proper functioning. The bottom line is – if the HVAC system isn't taken care of, the quality of the indoor air will suffer.
Substitute Cleaning Products
Over the past ten to fifteen years, we have learned more and more about the adverse health effects associated with chemicals found in many cleaning solutions. This knowledge has led to the introduction of alternatives. It is now possible to buy cleaning products that do not contain the harsh chemicals found in the old standards. The absence of these chemicals from a home or workplace is sure to improve the overall health of the indoor environment.
If you have an indoor air quality issue or concern in you workplace we can help. Please fill out our online EHS Request Form and an expert will respond within 24-48 hours.
To learn more about indoor air quality download our free informational paper now!
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