Workplaces cover a huge range of occupations and consequently of materials used and with allergies, particularly respiratory ones, steadily rising the air quality in a building is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Enclosed spaces are obviously more controllable but there is a huge range of substances that can cause problems to those working in them. The safe storage, handling, use and disposal of many potentially dangerous chemicals are covered in the UK by the COSSH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations. But there are many other seemingly innocuous substances, with which we come into daily contact, that contain the potential to cause problems.
The dust created by operations involved in cutting and sanding wood, or many of the activities carried out in vehicle repair shops are among the most obvious. But there are also many items inside our work places and homes including materials and chemicals used in construction or interior decoration and have been identified as letting off poisonous gasses for years.
Plywood, particle board and glues contain formaldehyde; it can be found in most cabinets, carpets and walls. Formaldehyde is often brought into homes in grocery bags; it’s even in some tissues and paper towels. The chemical has been identified as a carcinogenic substance.
Carpets, shower curtains, paints, upholstery, plywood, particle board, cabinets, computers, and synthetic materials all let off potentially poisonous gasses and chemicals.
Trichloroethylene can be found in paints, lacquers, carpet shampoos, spot removers and adhesives. It was also used in dry cleaning, although this is becoming less common. Trichloroethylene is a central nervous system depressant.
These days as most buildings are well insulated such potential poisons are trapped inside for people to breathe.
Trapped moisture can be another major problem, such as the condensation that lingers inside in a cold winter and encourages the growth of moulds in inaccessible spaces if efforts are not made to deal with it.
Some measures can be taken to counter all these potential problems and one of the most widely recommended is to have plenty of plants in a building. In the USA studies by NASA have found that having plenty of plants indoors can detoxify up to 85 percent of indoor air pollution.
Moisture and air quality control systems can also be installed, including ventilation and ducted air systems with air filters.
HVAC, the Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning industry, stresses paying attention to indoor air quality while at the design and construction stages of a building if possible.
It includes one technique, called demand controlled ventilation, that can reduce energy consumption while maintaining adequate air quality, in which instead of setting throughput at a fixed air replacement rate, carbon dioxide sensors are used to control the rate dynamically, based on the emissions of actual building occupants.
Many work buildings already have such systems, of course, and it may not be possible or economic to replace them with more modern, “state of the art” systems.
So a regular programme of maintenance and cleaning will be necessary to ensure they continue to do their job.
A specialist commercial cleaning company can supply ventilation cleaning and air hygiene services to ensure this and will be able to assess the condition of a specific building’s ventilation and recommend the correct programme of air filter checking, cleaning and replacement as well as the frequency of cleaning needed to maintain ventilation hygiene.
Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers