Indoor air quality has a considerable effect on our health and well-being. Unfortunately, while we trust heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to keep our air clean, they can contribute to poor indoor air quality.
As employee health issues can help signal poor indoor air quality, we will guide you to recognize your building’s unhealthy air quality and find solutions to improve it.
What is poor indoor air quality? By definition, it is the air that is polluted with:
Many of these particles are usually found in the air, but they can be toxic at high levels. While the pollutants may be generated outside the building—for instance, by a local industrial plant—they may be brought into the building by people (especially in the case of bacteria and viruses). In addition, office furniture can emit formaldehyde and industrial solvents. At the same time, printers and copiers can pollute the indoor air with paper fibers, organic vapors, and inorganic gases that can affect workers’ health.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is when “building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” On the other hand, when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants, it is known as “building-related illness (BRI).”
Either way, building occupants can experience health problems such as throat irritation, allergy-like symptoms, and fatigue when exposed to polluted air. The severity of the symptoms depends on the length, intensity, and frequency of exposure and pre-existing health conditions.
Given that we spend most of our home and work time indoors, building managers must take steps to ensure clean air inside occupied buildings. Regular HVAC system checks and air quality tests will help minimize bad indoor air and improve workers’ health.
There are key symptoms to watch for that could be signs of an air quality issue. If building occupants present any of the subsequent symptoms, assess your air quality and get a portable air purifier unit.
Random coughing or trouble breathing when not related to a known health condition is a severe sign of poor indoor air quality. These symptoms could mean too many particles in the air, and people are breathing dust, dander, pet hair, allergens, viruses, and more.
The symptoms will occur even in people who have no pre-existing respiratory conditions. Consider an air quality test if you or someone else in your building is coughing and does not have a known issue.
Sneezing or allergic reactions are relatively standard for people with allergies. However, if someone does not have allergies and develops these symptoms while in your building, then your air quality may be an issue.
In addition, poor air quality can aggravate the symptoms in people who have existing allergies. You need to assess your current air filtration system, as it may not be working efficiently. Then, if sneezing and allergy-like symptoms persist or worsen for people in the building, add a 5-stage air purifier with True HEPA filtration.
Increased dry or irritated skin incidents could indicate high levels of dangerous airborne pollutants. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it is in constant contact with indoor air. When contaminants are present, they accumulate on the skin’s surface and absorb the hair follicles. Pollutants may also be inhaled or ingested.
Many people already have skin conditions and dry skin, so these topical issues may not be noticed, especially in dry indoor climates. In addition, the building’s HVAC system filtration may need to be upgraded. Consider ActivePure induct solutions, which clean air throughout the ductwork with greater efficiency.
Contaminants from chemicals like pesticides and cleaning products can cause headaches; garbage left out for too long could also affect air quality. Other VOCs like fumes and carbon monoxide, which are extremely dangerous, could cause dizziness and nausea. These symptoms can be debilitating and might be related to indoor air quality. Add portable air purifiers with activated carbon filters to remove harmful VOCs and improve health.
The physical conditions of an office or business can be a measure of indoor air quality. Unclean offices in poor physical condition are more likely to have bad air quality. If you notice any of these three conditions in your building, then get your building’s air quality tested immediately.
Some dust is normal; however, high dust levels are an indication of excessive indoor air pollutants. Dust mites feed off house dust and moisture in the air and are the most common cause of allergy from dust. If your building is very dusty, it can trigger allergies and asthma and cause eczema to flare up.
Does your building require frequent dusting? There may be a ventilation problem. Consider getting a True HEPA filter or improved ActivePure induct for enhanced filtration throughout the building and revising your sanitation schedule for better indoor cleanliness, virus mitigation, and dust removal.
Hot and cold spots are signs that your air ventilation is off balance. Uneven temperatures could indicate AC system issues and poor indoor air circulation. You should assess your HVAC system because this could indicate the AC unit might be too small for the space. Contact an HVAC specialist to ensure your building has efficient cooling and heating.
Unpleasant odors may be generated by chemicals, office furnishings, food, and body odor. You could also have an odor from mold, mildew, and pollen buildup in your ducts. Smells may also contribute to sick building syndrome. For example, one study found that they also claimed to smell an odor when people complained of SBS symptoms.
Lingering smells might mean that your ventilation system is not working correctly. First, consider an air purifier and HVAC assessment. Portable air purification systems use high-powered methods to clean large amounts of space within a short time.
If you suspect your building’s air quality is poor, address it as soon as possible. There are several steps you can take, including:
Contact Sanalife today to see how easily air purification devices can improve indoor air quality, make your building safer, and keep your employees healthier.