3 Common Indoor Air Contaminants Found In Offices

Learn about the top common indoor air pollutants and contaminants found in workplace environments and how to reduce them.

Offices like many high-occupancy indoor environments suffer from indoor air quality issues. In workplace environments poor indoor air quality stems from the presence of airborne contaminants. These airborne contaminants ranging in severity can have adverse effects on employee health and productivity. Offices can mitigate issues relating to indoor air quality through the implementation of portable air purifiers and making necessary HVAC upgrades. Read on to learn the top 3 airborne contaminants found in offices, and what actions can be taken to reduce their presence.

Top 3 Airborne Contaminants Found In Offices

1) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

An often forgotten dangerous airborne contaminant in office environments is volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are commonly emitted into the air through chemical substances. In workplaces, VOCs are typically emitted from multi-purpose cleaners, paints, aerosol sprays, and even from office electronics such as printers and copier machines. Not only can VOCs adversely impact indoor air quality, but VOCs can also have adverse health effects on those breathing them in. As a result, VOCs are a common culprit of office employees experiencing sick building syndrome symptoms.

To combat the presence of VOCs in office spaces, it is recommended to implement the use of air purifiers with activated carbon filters. The unique adsorbent media of these filters uses granular activated carbon (GAC) to capture and reduce the presence of VOCs, odors, and harmful gases. Air purifiers with hydroxyl generating technologies such as ActivePure® are also highly effective in reducing VOCs.

2) Mold, Mold Spores, And Fungi

For workplace environments in both new and old facilities, airborne mold, mold spores, and fungi may be present. Often, due to high humidity and moisture buildups, these airborne contaminants can rapidly occur in indoor environments. In offices, common places, mold, and fungi may be present include; window sills, carpet, furniture, floors, ceiling tiles, break rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. For office employees, continued inhalation of airborne mold and fungi can lead to adverse health problems. Additionally, a variety of common molds also make mycotoxins, toxic metabolites, and by-products of mold, leading to respiratory problems.

To prevent the growth of mold and fungi in offices, a standard recommendation is to reduce and control indoor humidity with dehumidifiers. Furthermore, additional air filtration such as HEPA air purifiers is also recommended to reduce airborne mold and fungi. Similar to VOCs, hydroxyl generating air purification technologies can also rapidly reduce airborne mold and fungi.

3) Viruses And Pathogens

In all indoor environments, airborne viruses and pathogens are ever-present. However, in offices, where occupancy density tends to be higher, airborne viruses and pathogens can become rapidly contagious. Viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are transmitted through aerosol droplets and can travel throughout an entire room or indoor space. In indoor environments, occupants can contract airborne viruses simply by being exposed to an infected person coughing or speaking near them.

To reduce the presence of airborne viruses and pathogens in offices, it is recommended to increase ventilation and air filtration. Ventilation can be increased by improving existing HVAC system performance and implementing the use of MERV 13 or higher rated filters. Additionally, portable HEPA air purifiers can be installed in high-traffic areas to provide further air filtration and increase air exchanges.

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