The Importance of Maintaining Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air within a building. It’s determined by the concentration of pollutants the air, as well as humidity and temperature. It’s easy to overlook something like air quality, but it’s crucial to the health, comfort, and productivity of your employees. If your workplace has poor IAQ, it could result in your employees getting sick or being unable to perform their jobs.
The Air Quality Dilemma
IAQ is something that can be taken for granted. Most workers expect their office will have a comfortable environment with clean, breathable air. However, this can easily change if the building’s control system malfunctions, not allowing proper ventilation, heating, or cooling. If not properly maintained, IAQ can quickly become worse than outside air on a smoggy day in an industrial city. This issue has become a growing concern among building owners, managers, and occupants alike.
What Causes Poor Air Quality?
A variety of factors can affect the air quality in your building, most notably contaminants. Contaminants are biological or chemical pollutants that get released in the air as gases or particulates. They can include mold, dust, asbestos, and more. Contaminants can come from the outside or inside and can pose serious health risks.
In addition to contaminants, temperature and humidity also play a big role in IAQ. An office that’s too cold, hot, or humid may be too uncomfortable for your employees. Not only can this interfere with productivity, but it can lead to other issues. For example, humidity can encourage mold to grow inside a building because fungus usually thrives in moist environments.
The consequences of poor air quality can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Acute effects are typically experienced within 24 hours of exposure. Chronic effects may not show up for years and are often associated with repeated or long-term exposure. What symptoms your employees suffer will depend on the type of contaminant they encounter.
Common complaints include headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. These widely shared symptoms have led to the term “building associated illnesses.” These illnesses include sick building syndrome, building-related illness, and multiple chemical sensitivity.
How Can You Improve Indoor Air Quality?
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has no formal indoor air quality standards, but the government agency does offer some suggestions on what you can do to improve IAQ. Some of these methods include:
- Eliminating the source of the pollutant
- Improving ventilation
- Adjusting work schedules to reduce or eliminate how long workers are exposed to pollutants
- Educating employees about the sources and effects of pollutants under your control
What If I Notice a Problem?
Changes to your health are good indicators of poor IAQ. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms caused by poor air quality, you’ll want to talk to your doctor. It also would be beneficial to alert your supervisors, building manager, or building owner. Another option is to identify potential sources of pollutants. Being aware of the types and number of sources can prepare you for reducing or eliminating the problem.
We Can Help
At Brandt, our team of experts can help you improve the indoor air quality of your building. Or if you’re just interested in learning more about IAQ, give us a call.
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