Outdoor air pollution has been widely studied and regulated for decades, but the quality of indoor air and its potential risks were little unrecognised until the early 2000s. Yet in temperate climates we can spend up to 90% of our time in closed environments (houses, schools, offices, transportation, etc.), where we may be exposed to numerous pollutants. The question of indoor air quality has therefore become a major public health concern across the globe.
Outdoor and indoor air is considered polluted when a chemical, physical or biological agent changes the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide are some of the most hazardous pollutants. Apart from pollutants entering from outdoor air, the potential sources of pollution inside buildings are manifold: fuel-burning appliances, construction materials, housekeeping products, paint, tobacco, dust mites and more.
High health and socioeconomic costs
Air pollution is one of the main environmental risks worldwide and the fourth biggest risk factor for mortality globally. It not only provokes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, allergies and asthma, but is also indirectly linked to productivity loss (affecting comfort, workplace well-being, etc.).
Indoor air can far more polluted than outdoor air and was responsible for 3.8 million premature deaths worldwide in 2016. According to evaluations in France, indoor air quality is poor in 60% of homes, and 34% of tertiary premises—that is, one out of two offices, and three out of five classrooms—that are not equipped with an air ventilation or treatment systems. This has significant consequences for society, which must shoulder a cost of around 19 billion euros linked to premature deaths, health care expenses, productivity loss, etc. Children are among the most vulnerable, taking around 40 breaths per minute on average (as opposed to 16 in adults), meaning the quality of air in closed spaces for young people is a priority.
A study conducted by Elabe for Veolia Group on air pollution was published on World Environment Day, June 5. It surveyed thousands of citizens in France, Belgium, and Shanghai. The idea was to evaluate the general public’s level of awareness on the issue of indoor air pollution. Here is a look at the main lessons from the survey.
Water damage is no joke, and during a flood is one of the most common times that you are going to experience the most of it. It’s the year 2019, and with numerous floods that are almost as bad as 1993, there have been numerous homes and even commercial buildings compromised. Even just a little bit of seepage from flood waters can ruin the structural integrity, as well as pose numerous health risks for you when it comes to causing mold to grow in your homes. In this guide, we’ll teach you some good tips that can help you remove the risk for mold before it can start.
Remove Excess Water
Make sure you get a wet/dry vacuum or hire a company that specializes in home water removal as quick as possible. Moisture is the most common thing that can not only damage your home’s structural integrity, but it’s also a cesspool for bacteria and mold, especially when it sits for long periods of time.
Use Fans, Wet Vacs, and Shampooers, and Open Windows
Getting some industrial sized fans and opening windows on hot sunny dry days can greatly increase the chances of your home drying out faster, and even works great on carpets.
Don’t just settle with a cheap dehumidifier that won’t do the job. Also, if you have flood damage, you’re probably going to need more than one dehumidifier in order to remove excess moisture that evaporates into the air some.
Shampoo Your Carpets
What? You need to get them wet again? Yes, you do, but use a professional solution and you can easily mix in a little bit of Lysol cleaner to help not only eliminate bacteria and disinfect everything, but also to help kill unwanted mold as well (and get the smell better in there too).
Okay, so maybe not every single thing, but baseboards, walls, and floors at least – pretty much anything the storm water or flood water touches. Storm water is full of germs and bacteria, especially river flood waters that lay stagnant. If you can’t wash and scrub your baseboards or walls with bleach, be sure to use a strong solution of Lysol to water as well (use about 10 oz. of Lysol per gallon of water) in order to kill all the germs.
Your Furniture May Be Hiding Something
Furniture is often a secret carrier of mold after and during a flood. While you may have the whole house clean and are working on drying it, even moisture and mold spores in the air can float down and seep into your couches, loveseats and more.
This year marks a great flooding time for much of the United States, and it’s imperative that you have a good protective method in place when it comes not only to water damage to your home, but also to mold. It can literally cause serious bodily harm if the spores are inhaled and grow in your lungs, as well as cause a lot of damage. If you’re in the real estate market, water damage can even destroy the integrity of your home’s value very quickly as well, so it’s best to take action as soon as possible.
There’s a great story about an Air Force general and his facility manager. When being presented with a PowerPoint about some facility issues, the general stated the following:
You’re air to me.
I need you to be there, but I don’t want to see you or think about you.
I just need to know, to believe, that you’re there.
However, if I am thinking about you, then we both have a problem.
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is a serious problem for generals and non-generals. It is invisible to a human eye but can easily influence the health and productivity of a workforce. Studies show that air pollution-related illness results in roughly $150 billion in losses. Amazingly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the concentration of pollutants indoors is often 2 to 5 times higher than outdoors.
Better air means better decisions. Several years ago, researchers from Harvard University conducted a study to see how IAQ affects “knowledge workers.” The results showed that breathing better air led to significantly better decision-making.
Improving IAQ requires a bit of thought and commitment. Here are five actions that will make a real and noticeable difference.
1. Entrance matting: Improved IAQ can be as easy as adding entrance mats to your facility. It is a common misconception that the mats are only used to reduce risk of slips and falls. They also help prevent dirt and dust from getting into the building. It is crucial that mats throughout a building should be cleaned on a regular basis. Dirty mats only help spread pollutants in the facility.
2. Vacuuming frequencies: While it is clear that carpets serve to trap dust, walking over a dirty carpet actually contributes to the elevation of dust and other pollutants into the air. This is especially dangerous for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, people with asthma and individuals with difficulties breathing. It is key to employ proper vacuuming frequencies which vary depending on a facility’s size. It is also important to ensure that the cleaning crew uses the HEPA vacuums and commonly accepted cleaning practices.
3. Dusting practices: Dusting seems a very straightforward task at first thought. However, it is crucial that employees use proper equipment and techniques. Otherwise, they risk simply scattering the dust without any significant improvement to the surface. It is important that the cleaning crew uses a microfiber cloth which absorbs the dust and minimizes escaped particles. With a microfiber cloth there is no need to use any chemicals; a great benefit to tenants with allergies to chemicals.
4. HVAC maintenance: Maintenance of HVAC systems is a key factor to ensure healthy IAQ. If a company doesn’t have enough resources to invest in the new HVAC systems, there are other solutions to consider. For example, they can use an older system but increase the frequency of filter replacement. Another solution is to consider more effective filter options. However, the biggest problem in the industry is the lack of HVAC technicians. Many trade schools report their programs being under enrolled. This results in a decreasing supply of HVAC professionals. It may seem like an easy task to change a filter, but it becomes quite a challenge when there is not a specialist available to do it. This causes many facility teams to postpone their scheduled preventative maintenance for indefinite periods of time.
5. Cleaning of non-traditional surfaces: Today many businesses prefer to occupy the so-called “modern” office with the exposed pipes in the ceilings and other attributes resembling a city loft atmosphere. Those designs look trendy and attract younger employees. However, it is important to keep in mind that those nontraditional surfaces often require unique cleaning procedures as well. Otherwise, they end up being the biggest (and the fanciest) dust collectors in the building.
It is essential that industry professionals educate their customers on the impact cleaning services have on the productivity in the workplace. This is an impact that can be as important as the air we breathe.
Holistic HVAC hygiene is a common sense, proactive maintenance concept. It demonstrates how each component of an HVAC system works together to provide fresh air exchange and temperature control in a building. A single component being compromised can have a chain effect on the rest of the system and impact building health. Let’s take a brief look at how holistic HVAC hygiene can be tested and maintained.
Basic HVAC Function & Design
The HVAC system is designed to provide heating, ventilation and cooling to a building. Hence the acronym “HVAC”. Think of it like the respiratory system of the building. In the most basic sense the ventilation part of the HVAC system consists of the air handler units (AHU), ductwork, and sometimes variable air volume (VAV) boxes within the ducts. The AHU has dampers, return plenums, filters, evaporator coils, heating coils, drain pans, fans, motors, insulation and supply plenums. Holistic HVAC hygiene accounts for the cleanliness of all of these components at a systemic level. Deficiencies in any of these areas quickly compound throughout the system and affect Indoor Air Quality.
Measurement & Verification
There are a couple of ways to get insights on holistic HVAC hygiene. Often times HVAC maintenance, including duct cleaning is deferred. However, the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind” is not always the case. Occupants, in many cases, are the first to report HVAC hygiene or IAQ issues by observation. Odors, degraded comfort, and an influx in allergies while in a building can all indicate a problem with the HVAC system. Occupant complaints should be taken seriously and act as a catalyst for professional IAQ testing.
True visibility into holistic HVAC hygiene is provided by measurement and verification testing. Building Sciences at Pure Air Control Services conducts indoor air and environmental testing for HVAC systems.
The HVAC Hygiene Assessment investigates both cleanliness and performance criteria and reports on the conditions. The system is visually inspected then air and surface samples are collected from the different components. These samples are then analyzed by our Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory for microbial and other factors like bacteria, mold and particulates. Performance data like differential pressure, total air supply in cubic feet per minute, temperature differential, cooling output, relative humidity and more is collected to determine the system’s impact on the building. When significant problems are found, recommendations for correction are made.
Remote IAQ Monitoring
Another way to keep an eye on the holistic HVAC hygiene conditions is with the IAQ Guard real-time monitoring program. IAQ Guard is a set of wireless remote sensors placed throughout a building’s HVAC zones. These sensors continuously monitor specific IAQ parameters like temperature, humidity, CO2, particulates, and VOC. The real-time data is sent via a node to a cloud-based dashboard that Building Sciences uses to detect trends and anomalies in the building envelope. If any of the monitored parameters trend outside of normal baseline conditions an alert is sent, and corrective action can be taken before the situation worsens. IAQ Guard is great for ongoing proactive monitoring and is also used in conjunction with sensitive remediation or construction projects.
Holistic HVAC Hygiene Maintenance
Maintaining the HVAC system needs to be a number one priority for facility managers. After all, it is the number one factor affecting building and occupant health. Building Remediation Sciences at Pure Air Control Services provides a suite of engineered solutions to keep your building’s HVAC system in great shape!
PURE-Duct is an IAQ driven duct cleaning service. It is performed with maximum containment to minimize the risk of cross contamination. A high attention to detail is not only paid to cleaning ductwork, but also other inline components such as VAV boxes, reheat coils and smoke detectors.
PURE-Steam is a Green Clean Institute certified solution that disinfects the entire AHU and deeply cleans HVAC coils. There have been many white papers and case studies published about its efficacy. PURE-Steam effectively eliminates microbes and restores operational efficiency.
HVAC New Life adds antimicrobial coatings, drain pan liners and closed cell insulation with PURE-Steam to restore aging AHU’s for additional years of service. It can be procured with CAPEX and far more cost effective than new replacement.
The combination of these routine cleaning services and IAQ testing/monitoring ensure optimal holistic HVAC hygiene. It not only benefits building occupants but also the bottom line.
For more information on IAQ testing or our engineered solutions please call 1-800-422-7873 or contact us here.
Pure Air Control Services, Inc. leader and innovator for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) services has opened a new northeast office to better serve their customers’ needs in that region of the United States. The new King of Prussia office will be managed by building scientist, Karl Stefan. Karl has been with Pure Air Control Services since 2017. He is a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (CIEC) with The American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC) and has conduct numerous building investigations over the years for Pure Air Control Services.
Pure Air Control Services provides IAQ and energy saving engineered solutions through its three highly specialized divisions.
Building Sciences conducts indoor environmental investigations to identify potential threats. They can test for very specific IAQ complaints or evaluate the entire building envelope for any deficiencies.
Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) provides microbiological analysis to support Building Sciences assessments. They also serve other industrial hygienists and clients who have an in-house environmental team. EDLab is CDC Elite Program and New York State Department of Health ELAP (#12086) certified for Legionella testing. They offer quick turnaround for Legionella testing using state-of-the-art molecular testing methods.
Building Remediation Sciences (BRS) offers innovative and propriety services to restore optimal IAQ. BRS is a highly trained team of NADCA certified mechanical technicians and mold remediators. The main services they provide are PURE-Duct hygienic cleaning, PURE-Steam HVAC/Coil Cleaning, PURE-Decon building/room disinfection and HVAC New Life hygienic restoration.
Human beings spend 90% of the time indoors and breathe about 3,000 gallons of air a day! Everyone needs good IAQ! Recent studies have shown that optimal IAQ improves employee productivity. Not to mention, fouled HVAC equipment leads to decreases in energy efficiency!
Pure Air Control Services has a vast array of experience with all levels of governmental agencies (including military bases), K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, healthcare facilities and commercial properties. Now these types of customers can access professional IAQ services through the northeast office.
To ease the procurement process Pure Air Controls also has cooperative purchasing contracts through E&I and TIPS, as well as a federal GSA Contract.
King of Prussia Northeast Office
Pure Air Control Services northeast office is designed to serve all of Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
The new northeast office is located at 630 Business Drive, 3rd Floor, Suite 5, King of Prussia, PA 19406. The direct phone number is (610) 768-7716 or toll free at 1-800-422-7873. This office will be available for on-site meetings and presentations. Mr. Stefan will also be traveling throughout the territory calling on customers for IAQ testing and consulting, as well as educating with presentations and lunch and learns.