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8 Simple Steps to Better Air Quality in the Workplace

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Our homes are often not the sanctuaries we believe them to be. Therefore, the first step toward healthy breathing is ensuring that the air inside our homes is as clean and healthy as we can make it. After all, we spend the vast majority of our time there. The second step is our workplace, where we spend much of the rest of our time.

Modern research has demonstrated the scary truth that if air quality outdoors is poor, indoor air quality is likely much worse due to higher concentrations of dangerous pollutants and contaminants.

According to a study by environmental groups in the US and Canada, office pollution is often at extremely high levels. It is much higher than at home, due to the presence of toxic dust. This toxic dust coats everything, and regular cleaning usually only helps to re-circulate it.

Where does the all this dust come from?  Many factors contribute to it: byproducts from business machines, flame-retardants like PBDEs common in business environments, intense cleaning agents and so forth. Long-term exposure to  air pollution in the workplace can cause significant problems, including developing asthma and allergies. Short-term exposure can result in irritation of the eyes, nose and throat as well as severe fatigue.

The upside to all of this is that the problem is preventable and curable. It generally does not involve a great investment of resources. Following are some effective strategies available to us for the workplace:

  1. Understand the risks inherent to your environment. Know what the pollution sources are. For instance, some workplaces will have dangerous chemicals on hand that can lead to mold growth or particle inhalation. We may not be able to remove these sources from the workplace, but we can take the necessary steps to ensure that we store them in a safe manner.

  2. Do remove sources of pollution wherever possible. For example, cleaning services may keep their dangerous cleaning supplies on site when that isn’t necessary. Likewise, in order to "save money," offices may buy in bulk but that savings could also mean additional expenses if they now have to counter the contamination.

  3. Many workplaces have an on site maintenance staff that is responsible for replacing filters and cleaning heating and cooling equipment. Frequent maintenance like this is vital to a healthy workplace due to the amount of activity and pollutants and contaminants introduced regularly. Small offices without on site staff should have a maintenance contract.

  4. All workplaces should have proper ventilation and filtration. The most important advanced filtration technologies are HEPA air purifiers and activated carbon. An adequately-sized room air purifier system removes 99.97% of all airborne particulates down to 0.3 microns in size. It also removes allergens, bacteria, chemicals and gases, viruses and mold spores. The easiest way to introduce such filtration to a work environment is with a portable unit.

  5. All workplaces should strive to maintain a relative humidity around 30-50 percent. A central air or similar system will not accomplish this on its own, and thus needs the help of a dehumidifier. This humidity range helps to combat allergens, dust mites, mold growth and a host of other pollutants.

  6. All entrances to the workplace should have high-quality scraper floor mats designed for industrial and commercial use. Most workplaces get a lot of traffic in and out their doors daily. These mats can trap a significant amount of the pollution that people track in on their shoes. In addition, maintenance must clean these mats regularly in order for them to remain effective.

  7. Vacuum and then mop all workplace floors regularly, in that order. Avoid using dangerous cleaning agents whenever possible, even if it costs a little extra. Microfiber dusting cloths and mats can remove 98% of all contaminants using only water.

  8. A HEPA vacuum can ensure optimal vacuuming efficiency. Conventional vacuums simply recirculate anything too small to trap, and they do not effectively combat dust mites, pet dander, pollen and so forth.


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