Indoor Air Quality: A Guide to a Safer Workplace

Indoor Air Quality: A Guide to a Safer Workplace

by Dylan Caraker

When people think of safety in the workplace, the mind tends to drift to slips and falls or cuts and lacerations, but one of the most important aspects of safety is an invisible invader that you never thought to look for: the very air you breathe. This tacit attacker may not appear to be an imminent threat, but its silent approach can be the harbinger of critical illness and even fatalities.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is critical for good health. Americans spend a large amount of their time (according to the EPA, about 90%) indoors, whether that be in the home, place of work, or any other buildings. The air you breathe in these buildings often contains harmful gases, chemicals, and other pollutants leading to headaches, eye irritations, allergies, or fatigue. Some of the more serious pollutants and gases haven been linked to cancers and other longer-term health complications. You are unintentionally sitting in an incubator of harmful chemicals that can lead to very serious ailments if it is not addressed properly.

To make matters worse, these gases are often undetectable without the proper equipment. Furthermore, the most common pollutants come from sources most would assume are relatively safe items.

Here is a list of the most common indoor air pollutants:

Second hand smoke: A pollutant that can worsen symptoms for those suffering from asthma. It can also increase the risk of ear infections in children and increase the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Radon: A gas pollutant that has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon enters buildings through tiny cracks and other improperly sealed openings.

Combustion Pollutants: Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide come from burning materials or often from improperly vented appliances like space heaters, stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces.

Both of these gases are colorless and odorless, so they are not easily detectable by human senses, leading to headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, and can lead to death.

Poor indoor air quality is a serious public health issue that continues to gain traction and press on the local, state, and federal levels. By recognizing the importance of indoor air quality, some states like Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have created legislation to address these health concerns. However, not enough mandates are in place to protect every workspace in America. This is a serious deficit in the infrastructure of current workplace health and safety.

A Series of Unfortunate Truths about IAQ:

– Indoor air quality is often between two to five times more polluted than the outside air.

– The EPA has placed IAQ pollution within the top 5 environmental dangers list

– Poor IAQ has recently been linked with an increase in children with severe allergies and asthma.

– The American Heart Association has linked lung cancer and heart problems directly with IAQ

Bearing all of this in mind, a responsible workplace Facilities Manager must be purposeful and prompt to ensure that IAQ is no longer a silent source of health issues. The key to having good indoor air quality is to have a well-designed HVAC system working for you.

A well-designed HVAC system, along with other systems working together, should efficiently ventilate your workplace and minimize sources of indoor pollution. Previously, when duct systems were being built, a tight budget was the main concern. However, with better IAQ technology and testing, the concern has become saving energy, trapping contaminants, and removing anything harmful.

The first step toward clearing your workplace’s air is knowing what’s hiding in it. An Indoor Air Quality test offered through Envelop will be able to detect common air pollutants, while offering strategic solutions to address your air issues. At Validated Custom Solutions, our engineers are committed to finding the right solution for your unique HVAC system. Whether your facility is in the design phase or a long-standing structure, our engineers tailor solutions to your unique systems specifications, budgetary constraints, and long-term goals.

We provide air-side heat recovery options, unique filtration products, and quality air handlers to house them. Our water-side products include cooling towers, modular and oil-free compressor chillers, heat exchangers, filtration products, packaged pumping, and equipment room options.