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.
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.
The first thing that a homeowner or business owner tends to
do when they find mold or asbestos is try and clean it up. But then that is not
always the best course of action. Asbestos and mold removal is not easy if you
are not a professional. Mold can leave a displeasing mess that smells really
bad; but even worse, it can damage one’s home and put your health at risk.
Asbestos, is a well-known carcinogen and refers to six naturally occurring fibrous
minerals that have the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity, it
is usually found in most buildings that were built before 1980, and those houses
that were built around 1930-1950 usually have asbestos as insulation. Asbestos is
still used today in several products frequently used in construction. In
response, regulations to protect the health and safety of the employees,
occupants and contractors were made.
The Hazardous Asbestos
Before removing any asbestos, it is
important to know the safety tips, which is why asking for the assistance of
professionals is truly important. Asbestos
can cause many health risks, including cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.
It usually takes 10 – 50 years from the time of exposure for conditions to
develop, making it hard to diagnose in early stages.
These are just two of the diseases that can result from asbestos
Lung Cancer:Most commonly associated with
factors like smoking and radon, lung cancer is also known to be exacerbated by
exposure to asbestos. Researchers have found that about 3 – 4% of lung cancer
diagnoses are asbestos related.
respiratory condition results from the formation of scar tissue plaques on the
surface of the pleura lung tissue (lung linings). It can be a precursor to the
onset of mesothelioma.
Remember that there is no such thing as
safe level of asbestos exposure. Early removal of asbestos is important;
prevention is better than cure.
Importance of Mold Removal for the Health
There are numerous benefits of professional mold removal. Mold can spread
quickly which makes it hard to find where it originated. But professional
remediation will be able to locate the source of the mold where it grows and
completely remove it. Just like asbestos, mold can also be hazardous to your
health which may cause a wide range of health issues, depending on the type of
mold and severity of the infestation. The most common ailment is respiratory
infections, which can be especially hazardous to anyone with asthma and other
breathing difficulties. The longer you’re exposed to mold, the worse your
condition can get.
It surely may seem less expensive to do the removal on your own, but not being knowledgeable will end up costing homeowners and business owners more in the long run. To make sure that the mold or asbestos is removed safely at home or work, it’s best to let the professionals handle the work.
Contact Fun Guy Inspections at 818-674-7541 today.
ndoor air quality (IAQ) probably isn’t top of mind for most people, if any. But it should be because you’re probably not breathing clean air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.” That means headaches, itchy eyes, and fatigue now, and an increased potential for respiratory complications, heart disease, or cancer later. So yeah, it’s serious stuff.
IAQ is affected by myriad factors, but according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the leading issue is poor ventilation. In theory, you can just open the windows to increase air flow but that might not be a pleasant option in the dead of winter, or even a option at all if you live in an urban environment with poor outdoor air to begin with.
Thankfully, there are different methods to improve IAQ, like testing your indoor air, creating clean oxygen with a houseplant, and even reducing the use of some household products that can lead to high levels of total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), which are the gases emitted by everything like nail polish, paint, or even just your stovetop when making dinner.
Here are five ways to test, filter, and improve your IAQ.
Test your space with an IAQ monitor
If you live in a well-ventilated house in a rural area not used for raising livestock, then you may have great IAQ in your home; the rest of us probably have issues.
Using an IAQ monitor gives you a real-time snapshot of the air in your home (or office, school, daycare center — you get it) and can also help get an accurate sense of the air by tracking data over time. That way, you won’t wonder if you just tested the air at a bad time or get a false positive if you happened to test a room while its air was unusually pure.
Test for radon gas too
And while you’re at it, it’s also a good idea to use a radon detector. Radon is a radioactive, odorless, and invisible gas that comes up from the ground, so even a clean home with intentionally-reduced levels of TVOC can be at risk. And radon is deadly; after smoking, it’s the second leading cause of lung cancer.
A good radon detector will give you both current and historical data on the gas levels found in your home. If it’s consistently high, consider hiring someone to help you seal off the bottom of your house and potentially install a ventilation system under your home too.
Detox with an air purifier
A good air purifier isn’t cheap, but a great air purifier is actually kind of expensive. The benefits of clean indoor air can extend throughout your life, so a one-time expenditure now could actually save you a lot in medical bills later — not to mention quality and maybe even duration of life.
The Blueair Classic 480i air purifier ($686.99) uses a HEPA filter and an electrostatic charge to capture harmful particles in the air, and it can be set to automatically adjust fan speed and clean the air faster when sensors detect an increase in air pollution. The Alen BreatheSmart FIT50 air purifier ($550) has a mechanical filtration system and uses activated carbon to capture the smallest bits of pollutant. The system features an Air Quality Indicator Light that tells you the IAQ in real time with five different colors. Blue? That’s high-quality air. Purple? Better set the thing on high and go outside for a walk.
Create your own oxygen with houseplants
Capturing TVOCs, allergens, bacteria, dust, and other unpleasantness floating in your air is a great way to make indoor air less bad. But to make it better, you need to add more pure O2.
And how do you do that? With houseplants.
Plants are pretty amazing. They consume carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and add a lovely aesthetic upgrade all at the same time. At a quick count, my wife and I have 17 houseplants in our home. They vary between pothos plants that are tucked out of sight and allowed to grow as large as they want along with more curated, interesting ones in decorative planters.
One of the best ways to reduce the harmful TVOCs contaminating indoor air is to never present them in the first place. When shopping for household products you use on a regular basis like dishwasher detergent or dish soap, consider a brand like Lemi Shine, which makes cleaning products with natural citrus extracts instead of potentially dangerous chemicals. Or Aunt Fannie’s cleaners; its glass cleaner, floor wash, and multi-purpose cleaning solution are all vinegar based.
Decorate with zero-VOC paint
And when it comes time to paint the walls of a room, spend the extra money for zero VOC paint. You will be keeping your family safer and, because the paint is also low in odor, you won’t have to deal with that awful smell lingering for days.