Indoor air quality is becoming more and more of an issue in modern times. Buildings are being made more airtight, the use of synthetic materials is increasing, and energy conservation measures that reduce the supply of outside air are popular—all factors that negatively affect air quality.
Canadian occupational health and safety legislation states that employers must provide a safe and healthy workplace, and that includes clean, good quality air. Furthermore, improving air quality can boost employee productivity and well-being. It is in employers’ best interests to test the air quality in the office and take steps to ensure that their work environment is safe and clean for all occupants.
Office Air Pollutants
The following pollutants have a wide variety of sources commonly found in the office:
- Formaldehyde from particleboard, foam insulation, fabrics, glue, carpets and furnishings
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from copying and printing machines, computers, carpets, furnishings, cleaning materials, paints, adhesives, caulking, perfume, hairspray and solvents
- Ozone from photocopiers
- Carbon dioxide from the occupants of the building and fossil fuel combustion
- Carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust
- Allergens such as dust mites, animal dander and pollen
- Fungi and mould caused by humidity or water damage
- Bacteria and viruses
These pollutants can cause people in the office to experience dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin, headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, allergies, congestion, coughing and sneezing, dizziness and nausea, among other things. The term “sick building syndrome” has been coined for symptoms that appear related to time spent in the office.
How to Test Indoor Air Quality
To assess your office’s air quality, you must first conduct a visual inspection of the building. Look for possible sources of contamination or water damage, and make sure chemicals and cleaning products are properly sealed and stored. Check outside the building for any pollutants that may be drawn in through the ventilation system. The HVAC system should be inspected by a professional to make sure it is working properly.
Then, the building’s occupants should be questioned, particularly any who are experiencing symptoms. Air sampling to test for pollutants should only be done after these measures have been taken, and the sampling strategy used should be based on the information gleaned.
Equipment Used to Test Indoor Air Quality
Air sampling can be used to compare indoor and outdoor air quality, identify problem areas, and test hypotheses about the source of the problem. There are many different types of equipment that can be used to test the air, such as samplers, analyzers, and direct-reading devices. Some measure the air quality continuously, while others take one sample at a time. Some require lab analysis and specialized training, while others are simple to employ.
Simple, preliminary measurements such as temperature, humidity, air movement and CO2 levels may be done by anyone using portable devices, but these are limited in terms of their accuracy and ability to analyze the data. It’s best to have a qualified professional test the air quality in your office to identify the problem and work on a solution.
For more information on how to test air quality in the office, consult Health Canada’s guide to indoor air quality in office buildings.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Control Pollutants at the Source
It’s important to control the causes of airborne pollutants in the building wherever possible. Too much humidity can lead to the proliferation of mould and other biological contaminants, so spills and leaks should be addressed promptly. The building should be cleaned frequently with non-toxic cleaning products. Consider investing in low-VOC carpets and have them vacuumed on a regular basis. You may also want to add plants to mitigate CO2 levels.
Most office buildings rely on a ventilation system that pulls air in from the outside to improve the air quality indoors. However, if the ventilation system is clogged, faulty or has been hampered in order to cut heating and cooling costs, the air quality will inevitably suffer.
Purify the Air
Commercial air purification systems and UV air disinfection products make all the difference when it comes to office air quality. SANUVOX commercial air purification system can help you to eliminate or purify airborne pollutants, protect your employees and even help decrease HVAC energy consumption by keeping your coils clean !
Improve Office Air Quality with Sanuvox
Sanuvox is a North American leader in air purification and disinfection in the workplace. Our patented UV technology destroys contaminants and degrades chemicals and odours, significantly improving the air quality indoors.
If you would like to provide a safe work environment and boost your employees’ productivity and well-being, contact Sanuvox today! We’re a breath of fresh air.