Commercial & Residential

Eliminate Harmful Locker Room Bacteria With Clean Air Systems

Powerful air ventilation systems can reduce the amount of bacteria found in a locker room.

Building managers overseeing locker rooms in gyms and stadiums will need to ensure these areas are outfitted with working air filtration systems. Whether it’s the men’s or women’s area, locker rooms may foster the harmful growth of infectious diseases and more if they are not properly cleaned, or don’t have a functioning HVAC system.

Filter Out the Odors

Locker rooms are typically used by gym goers and professional athletes for a variety of reasons, and it’s not uncommon to sometimes think of locker rooms as where athletes hang out. In fact, these facilities serve many purposes, starting with as a private area for individuals to change and shower in.

But as sports have changed to become an even bigger part of popular culture, professional teams have invested more into their facilities. These days, locker rooms are only one part of a much larger facility. Take for instance the Oregon Ducks college football team, who in 2013 unveiled a $68 million dollar structure where student-athletes could realistically live in.

Athletes have access to not only a cafeteria, barbershop and theater, but also a weight room, health center and changing area. No matter the time of the year, athletes are training to better themselves for the next season. While the sweat or odors inherent in any locker room setting may not seem like much at face value, if perspiration and such aren’t accounted for, health issues can arise.

By removing odors, building managers are creating a cleaner environment that not only looks well kept, but also smells pleasant, given the purpose these areas serve. Locker rooms in public gyms or workout spots may be avoided if they are not properly maintained, and this could translate into members foregoing storing their personal belongings in a locker. This may increase the risk of potential theft.

But in locker rooms, a more dangerous situation has the potential to cause serious medical harm in the form of staph infections and potentially MRSA.

Locker room.

What is a Staph Infection?

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, staph infections can be caused by staphylococcus bacteria making its way deep into an individual’s body, such as the bloodstream or heart. Staph infection symptoms are varied depending on where the infection is first found.

For example, skin infection symptoms include the development of boils, a painful impetigo or even scalded skin syndrome, which is when blisters form and easily break.

In sports, staph infections can spread through contact when there are open cuts or skin-to-skin contact. Locker rooms are also known to be a cause for these infections when athletes share equipment, towels or uniforms.

One serious form of a staph infection is MRSA, which the Mayo Clinic stated is typically resistant to major antibiotics used to treat regular staph infections. MRSA can also be spread by skin-to-skin contact in locker rooms.

MRSA infections are not just a concern at the high school or amateur level, either. In 2015, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Lawrence Tynes sued the team after he contracted MRSA that forced him to retire. He claimed the organization never informed the team members that individuals who had MRSA visited facilities, nor was equipment properly cleaned and sterilized.

The infection also affected former New York Giants player Daniel Fells, who, as of December 2015, underwent 10 surgeries to treat MRSA, according to USA Today.

These are only a small number of professional athletes who have developed MRSA and as such, organizations and building managers need to ensure their athletes are in the safest locker room environment possible.

“Powerful air ventilation systems can reduce the amount of bacteria found in a locker room.”

Creating a Clean Locker Room

First, all gym and locker room equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized to help prevent staph infections from spreading. Athletes will also have to be proactive to prevent contracting these serious infections. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended athletes always wash their hands before and after playing or practicing their sport. By following good personal hygiene, athletes of all ages will help decrease the chance of contracting a staph infection or MRSA.

But the locker rooms also need to be outfitted with the latest in air filtration systems. The Mayo Clinic stated that staph bacteria is found in the nose or on the skin of roughly a third of the population and in most instances, the bacteria is harmless.

Even so, powerful air ventilation systems can help reduce the amount of bacteria found in a locker room, while also eliminating odors and mildew. These systems should be utilized everywhere, from high school and college locker rooms to those found in public gyms and workout facilities.

By contacting Air Impurities Removal Systems, locker room and building managers are helping to ensure they are doing everything possible to reduce the likelihood of athletes contacting a serious infection.

Engine Exhaust Fumes Cause Indoor Air Quality Problems

Engine Exhaust Fumes Cause Indoor Air Quality Problems 1

Health Hazards for Auto and Aircraft Engine Workers

As long as there are people who wish to travel and move things from one place to another, fast and easy transportation will continue to be a necessity. Global air travel alone accounts for 44,000 flights a day. Add the number of all road vehicles in use and it equals a staggering number of engines from planes, cars, and trucks that are tested, maintained and repaired every day. We must protect workers from possible air quality problems stemming from engine exhaust.

It is no secret that fuel emissions are a major source of air pollution (1). Government agencies and private companies exert great effort in developing cleaner fuels, reducing smog, and strengthening emission standards to lessen the negative environmental impact on our planet. What about how they affect indoor air quality? Aircraft and automotive engine exhausts are major contributors to indoor air pollution in airplane hangars and vehicle repair workshops. Combustible substances abound and if not contained, carry the threat of fire and explosion. (2)

The danger of compromised indoor air quality is not limited to spontaneous combustion; there are occupational health risks, as well.

Harmful Emissions

Engine exhaust emissions do not materialize from one single source. There are thousands of varieties of molecules possible and millions of varying chemical combinations. Contaminants abound. Depending on the type of fuel and engine, carbon particles, soot, Benzene, PAHs, and VOCs (3, 4, 5) can escape into the air and make people sick.

Here is a list of some, but not all, of the elements found in gas, diesel, and jet fuels:

Gas Exhaust (6):

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrocarbons (Benzene)
  • Sulphur dioxide
  • Soot

Diesel Exhaust (7):

  • Nitrogen
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrogen
  • Carbon soot

Jet Fuel (8):

  • Kerosene
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Nitrogen & sulfur oxides

When an engine burns fuel, it mixes with air to create a complex combination known commonly as exhaust. If air cleaning measures are not properly in place, these fine particles and gases become suspended in the air and enter a person’s breathing space. Workers who spend the majority of their waking hours in airplane hangars and automotive garages are literally walled in, breathing fumes emitted from running engines.

Protecting Workers From Exhaust Fumes

In the short term, directly inhaling large quantities of exhaust fumes may cause nausea, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. These effects will usually go away after contact ends. But very high and/or prolonged exposure to exhaust fumes may cause ongoing health problems. Respiratory symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing, particularly in persons who are naturally predisposed to or have a history of asthma or other lung problems, may not be reversible. (5) In addition, ultrafine particles from aircraft and diesel engine exhausts have proven to cause cancer, heart disease, blood clots, brain hemorrhage and airway diseases, thereby increasing the risk of serious work-related illnesses and premature deaths. (4)

Both the auto and aerospace manufacturing industries must comply with OSHA regulations and standards but often, the minimum standards are not enough to protect workers from harm. Failure to control exhaust at its source can turn deadly. Most employers do their part. But extra caution can mean a healthier, safer, and more productive workplace.

Beyond meeting minimum regulatory requirements, there are steps that can be taken to implement stricter internal standards to ensure worker safety. For example, products such as our exhaust blowers and fume extraction arms together provide a safe and easy means of removing harmful particulate matter and toxic fumes.

At AIR Systems, Inc., we serve our customers in the aircraft and auto industries by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air-cleaning products. Contact us today for a free estimate from one of our highly skilled clean air specialists.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Linked to Dry Eye Syndrome

Recent research connects the relationship between air pollution levels and dry eye syndrome

Using air cleaning systems to purify indoor air can help combat the outdoor dry eye contaminants that can cause dry eye syndrome.

Residents who live in polluted cities were more likely to experience dry eye syndrome, according to Science Daily.

The medical condition is considered a deficiency in the ability to produce natural tears and affects up to 4 million people aged 50 and older in the United States. Dry eye syndrome can lead to changes in quality of life and can prevent people from enjoying everyday activities like reading. This syndrome can also cause the eyes to produce an excess amount of tears as a response. 

Environmental factors such as atmospheric conditions have long been pinpointed as a cause for the condition. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on its site that indoor pollutants can also result in a variety of adverse health effects, such as sore eyes, headaches, and fatigue, which could be reduced with air cleaners. Sources of these pollutants include combustion pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), from chemicals commonly detected in varnishes and waxes as well as cleaning materials.

Researchers in the study connected the prevalence of dry eye syndrome to the amount of pollution city residents face, according to daily Rx News. For the study, data on 3.41 million patients who visited 394 eye clinics for veterans in locations around the U.S. were collected between July 2006 and July 2011. Out of these millions of patients, about 606,000 were recorded as having low tear volume, which could indicate dry eye syndrome. The research results were announced at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in New Orleans.

The connection between eye health and dry eye contaminants

The locations most likely to have patients exposed today eye contaminants included most metropolitan areas in the study. These locations were New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami, which were all found to have 17 to 21 percent of patients with dry eye syndrome as well as large amounts of air pollution. However, a solution to prevent this medical condition is as simple as using air filtration systems.

“Undoubtedly, many people living in arid and polluted cities would readily attest to the irritating effect air pollution has on dry eye,” said Anat Galor, M.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. “Our research suggests that simple actions, such as maintaining the appropriate humidity indoors and using a high-quality air filter, should be considered as part of the overall management of patients suffering from dry eye syndrome.”

The research indicates it would be helpful for both primary care doctors and eye care professionals, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists to understand the relationship between dry eye contaminants and other environmental factors. In diagnosing the condition and suggesting the best treatment options, health care providers should inquire about the patients’ environmental history. Knowing the impact of dry eye contaminants on optical health, eye care facilities might consider utilizing air filtration systems to protect their patients from poor indoor air quality.

Hospital and medical facility news is brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk

Asbestos, Indoor Air Quality, and Occupational Risk 1

The September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001 claimed nearly 3,000 lives and wounded more than 6,000 others. The devastation didn’t end there if you add the number of people who will die from asbestos-related disease resulting from the rescue, recovery, and cleanup efforts in New York City in the weeks that followed.

Because asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center North Tower, tons upon tons of asbestos particles were released into the air during the attack. All workers and volunteers deployed to the site and surrounding area breathed in the toxic dust, which was contaminated enough to cause great harm, even death, years after exposure. (1)

But someone needn’t be a hero to risk coming into contact with asbestos. Despite the EPA having identified asbestos as a hazardous pollutant in 1971, there are still more than 75 occupational groups with workers who are exposed to it. (2) What’s worse, many of those work indoors, where the threat of poor air quality is highest.

To know who is affected and how, one must understand what asbestos is and where it resides.

Asbestos is a set of six naturally occurring silicate minerals found in rock and soil. The composite is made up of tiny fibers that are biologically strong and heat resistant. Because of its resiliency, asbestos was widely used across numerous industries and can still be found in a multitude of items that were made before 1972. (3)

Current asbestos-containing products include auto clutches and brake pads, vinyl tile, and roofing materials, in addition to cement piping and other building construction materials. There are many more items that can be added to this list. (4)

Fifty years ago, the dangers of the mineral became common knowledge and today, products may contain asbestos so long as the amount does not exceed one percent. But older products – and building structures – may still contain large amounts of asbestos. Therein lies the problem.

Unhealthy exposure occurs when asbestos-containing materials become airborne, either from deterioration or damage. Employees such as construction, renovation or custodial workers are at the greatest risk because they often are the ones who intentionally, though often unknowingly, disturb asbestos fibers in the course of their day-to-day activities.

The results can be lethal.

The three main diseases associated with asbestos exposure are:

  1. Lung cancer
  2. Mesothelioma – A rare form of cancer that resides in the lining of the chest, lung, heart, and abdomen
  3. Asbestosis – A serious, long-term disease of the lungs

All three asbestos-related diseases are deadly and can take between 10-40 years for symptoms to emerge.

While large amounts of asbestos are held to a minimum by current government regulations, many hundreds of thousands of workers are still at risk of exposure. These occupations include auto and aircraft mechanics, construction workers, drywall tapers, electricians, engineers, home inspectors, industrial plant workers, plumbers, and pipefitters. There are many more. For workers in these industries, the EPA strongly recommends these basic strategies to combat against asbestos-tainted indoor air (5):

  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation
  3. Air Cleaning Systems

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers who work in industries affected by asbestos exposure by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove air impurities to give peace of mind.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.

Indoor Air Quality from Morgue to Funeral Home, the Danger of Formaldehyde Exposure

Formaldehyde Can Prove Deadly For Indoor Air Quality

Preserving the Dead

They are called funeral directors, morticians, undertakers, mortuary custodians, and funeral service professionals. Those soft-spoken individuals who counsel grieving family members and help plan the service after a loved one dies are likely also the ones who handle the technical aspects of preserving the deceased so that family and friends can say goodbye in a less clinical setting than a hospital or nursing home. Unfortunately, part of this job – the embalming part – can create toxic fumes that pose health hazards for the professional.

Preserving a body after death is a temporary measure used to slow decay for wakes and funerals that precede a burial. For optimal results, funeral professionals need to inject at least 3 gallons of embalming fluid into a cadaver’s arterial system and body cavity. Embalming fluids are made of strong chemicals, often containing a combination of formaldehyde (up to 50%), methanol or ethanol, and water. Among these chemical substances, it’s the formaldehyde that poses the greatest threat.

Formaldehyde is colorless, flammable, and pungent. In addition to its use as a preservative in labs and funeral homes, it is widely used as an industrial disinfectant and germicide. It is also a common element in construction materials such as insulation, plywood, and fiberboard. (1) You only need to pick up an item and read the ingredient list to realize that formaldehyde is commonly found in household products such as glues and adhesives, permanent-press fabrics, and paper product coatings.

Formaldehyde also occurs naturally in the environment. It is created in small amounts by most living organisms as part of normal metabolic processes. (2) But it is not the moderate amounts found in everyday products, nor organically formed formaldehyde, that should give cause for concern. It is elevated levels of formaldehyde – even a little bit too much – that can be a dangerous thing.

Formaldehyde Can Prove Deadly for Indoor Air Quality

Unsafe formaldehyde exposure occurs most often in an occupational setting through inhalation. In liquid form, it can be absorbed through the skin. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, formaldehyde is typically present at low levels in both indoor and outdoor air (2) and the primary route of exposure for the average person is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. (3)

Workers, however, may come in contact with formaldehyde at much higher levels than the average person. During the normal course of the workday, healthcare workers, lab techs, teachers who handle biological substances, or morticians who handle embalming fluids, can inhale elevated doses of formaldehyde gases or vapors. (4)

The negative health effects can include mild irritation such as itching or burning of the eyes, nose, and throat, or more concerning symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and nausea. (3) (4) Some people are very sensitive to formaldehyde, whereas others have no obvious reaction to the same level of exposure. (1) But at the highest levels, that of embalmers, for example, the hazard of most concern is the threat of cancer.

The following medical research groups – both government and independent – have deemed formaldehyde “a known carcinogen”:

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is formed from parts of several different US government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). IARC has concluded that formaldehyde is “carcinogenic to humans” based on higher risks of nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), an electronic database that contains information on human health effects from exposure to various substances in the environment.

National Cancer Institute researchers have concluded that, based on data from studies in people and from lab research, exposure to formaldehyde may cause leukemia, particularly myeloid leukemia, in humans. (2)

Despite all the research indicating formaldehyde is a cancer-causing substance, it is still the chemical of choice for those in the business of preserving bodies. And those with the highest exposure to the substance, will, of course, have the highest risk for contracting the deadly disease. To this point, Science Daily published findings that indicate specificity as to the type of cancer that poses the greatest risk to embalmers:

The number of years of embalming practice and related formaldehyde exposures was associated with statistically significantly increased mortality from myeloid leukemia, with the greatest risk among those who practiced embalming for more than 20 years. (5)

Formaldehyde Risk Reduction

So long as funeral professionals continue to use formaldehyde as their main source of chemical preservation, risk reduction methods beyond personal protective gear seem advisable and the implementation of practical engineering and work practice controls will greatly reduce worker exposure. (4)

While most businesses that work with formaldehyde-based embalming fluids currently comply with OSHA’s recommendations on safe work measures in the form of protective clothing, not all go a step further and install source capture equipment and/or ambient air-cleaning systems. This additional precaution is one more way to prevent indoor air pollution and eliminate any health risks for workers.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the funeral service profession by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air-cleaning products. Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced clean air specialists.

Fitness Centers Indoor Air Quality and Transmissible Disease

From MRSA to COVID-19, Germs Can Kill

Fitness Centers Indoor Air Quality and Transmissible Disease 1

Pre-COVID-19, the words “pandemic” and “deadly transmissible disease” didn’t affect most of us more than a passing notion. For athletes, coaches, and athletic clubs the focus on indoor air quality in their locker rooms was primarily limited to odor control. Then MRSA hit the scene.

For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (1) has plagued players and continues to do so. But now there is a greater threat in the locker room – viral Coronavirus (2) and thwarting both present considerable challenges.

MRSA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. This means that the antibiotics that used to kill the bacteria — such as methicillin — no longer work. This makes MRSA infections much more difficult to treat.

MRSA first surfaced in hospitals, where it often caused serious bloodstream infections in people who were sick with other diseases and conditions. Now there are varieties of MRSA that occur in nonhospital settings. These infections typically affect the skin of otherwise healthy individuals (3) — such as athletes from time spent in locker rooms.

MRSA Transmission

MRSA is usually spread through physical contact – not through the air. It is usually spread by direct contact (e.g., skin-to-skin) or contact with a contaminated object. However, it can be spread in the air if the person has MRSA pneumonia and is coughing, though this is uncommon in an athletic setting since someone with pneumonia would be unlikely to be present for athletic activity.

MRSA Preventative Measures

The CDC recommends:

  • Always keep athletic facilities, such as locker rooms, and shared equipment clean whether or not MRSA infections have occurred among the athletes.
  • Shared equipment should be cleaned after each use and allowed to dry.
  • Repair or dispose of equipment and furniture with damaged surfaces that do not allow surfaces to be adequately cleaned.
  • Clean equipment, such as helmets and protective gear, according to the equipment manufacturers’ instructions to make sure the cleaner will not harm the item.

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a disease caused by Coronavirus SARS-COV-2 that can trigger a mild to severe respiratory infection. It can affect your upper respiratory tract (sinuses, nose, and throat) or lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs). It spreads the same way other coronaviruses do, mainly through person-to-person contact. Infections range from mild to deadly. (4)

COVID-19 Transmission

As of now, researchers know that the new coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing is effective in preventing the spread.

Over time, hospitals and other healthcare facilities developed stringent hygiene routines that successfully reduce the prevalence of bacterial staph and other transmissible diseases. But Covid-19 has presented new challenges – challenges that professional teams and athletic departments are only now trying to conquer.

COVID-19 Preventative Measures

The battle of keeping athletes healthy is challenging but not impossible. Following all CDC recommendations mentioned above, under MRSA prevention in addition to the Hierarchy of Controls model recommended for COVID-19 prevention. (5)

Fitness Centers Indoor Air Quality and Transmissible Disease 2

The first and third control methods are elimination and engineering controls, both of which require action to improve indoor air quality. The first, elimination, requires a 987 AMB HEPA source control unit that would physically eliminate viruses that pollute the air and removing surface bacteria. Engineering controls such as proper HVAC systems and HEPA Air Scrubbers and Room Air Cleaners.

Occupational Risk for Shoe Repairers

Compromised indoor air quality is an occupational risk for leather shoe repairers.

Compromised indoor air quality is an occupational risk for leather shoe repairers.

Those who remember the children’s story, The Elves And The Shoemaker, likely envision the protagonist hunched over his cobbler’s bench, surrounded by tools as he stitched together leather pieces and mended old and worn boots and shoes. But in the picture books, plumes of smoke were not depicted. Neither the shoemaker nor the elves that made and fixed the shoes were shown coughing from toxic fumes or wincing from the sting of dirty air. And yet, back then, it was most certainly the reality of the trade.

Today, shoe repairers fare better than their turn-of-the-century predecessors but indoor air quality (IAQ) is still an issue with which the industry struggles. Of the nearly 8,000 tradesmen (1) in the Shoe & Leather Workers & Repairers Industry nationwide, a significant number of them have a high occupational risk for contact with unhealthy toxic substances. While the process of shoe repair seems quick, clean, and straightforward, it is a trade that requires both dexterity and ability. It also includes numerous exposure risks.

Whether a leather upper of a men’s western boot is torn at the seam, a delicate sandal needs a new heel or a pair of men’s wingtips requires resoling, the activity of repair will create dust and fumes. And though the number of toxins released may seem insignificant to a cobbler at the time of restoration, it is the duration of time spent – day after day and year after year – that is hazardous to a shoe repairer’s health. Sanding and nailing wood and cutting and shaving leather creates dust and particulates. The use of adhesives, dyes, and finishes all generate fumes and gases. Combined, these toxins negatively impact the indoor air quality surrounding the breathing space of the person doing the fixing. (2)

Global epidemiological studies provide evidence that employment in shoe production and repair is associated with an enhanced risk for cancer (primarily nose and nasal sinuses). According to the majority of findings, these types of cancers are induced by exposure to leather dust. Leather dust particles contain numerous chemicals acquired during the process of leather tanning and finishing and some of these compounds exert a carcinogenic effect. (3)

In fact, among the occupational causes of sino-nasal cancer, the International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) has implicated the manufacture and repair of leather goods as a leading employment category for contact with hazardous contaminants. What’s more, the IARC asserts that because there is less scientific consensus on the carcinogenic effect of fumes and dust from the repairing process, proper preventive measures have not been implemented by many workplaces thus workers are not adequately protected against this health risk. (3) But cancer is not the only threat.

shoe-repairer-being-exposed-to-various-chemical-fumes-and-dust

Electron-microscopic studies showed that the airborne dust samples collected during the machine repair of shoes contained leather, polymers, and finishing materials. (2) And within a variety of common shoe repair and refinishing products, two major chemicals, heptane, and ethanol, often can be found.

Symptoms from exposure to both chemicals can include headache, dizziness, vertigo, lightheadedness, stupor, unconsciousness, and irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes. In addition, harmful reproductive consequences are possible. Both chemicals have regulated workplace exposure limits and should be managed with respiratory care in mind. (4)

It is unlikely that Americans will stop wearing shoes and requiring their restoration. So long as this is true, exposure to dust and fumes will be an occupational hazard for cobblers. But shoe repairers needn’t subject themselves to unnecessary risk.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our customers in the Shoe & Leather Workers & Repairers Industry by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems remove toxic fumes and dust for the health and peace of mind of both employee and business owner.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

Emissions From Office Equipment Compromises Indoor Air Quality

Office equipment like photo copiers and laser printers negatively Affect indoor air quality.

Office equipment is meant to lighten the load of the average worker, but may have an unintended consequence: contaminated air. Since the early-2000s, numerous studies have been done on indoor air quality as it concerns sicknesses that affect office workers.

The EPA has defined office worker illness this way:

The term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which 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. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone or may be widespread throughout the building, In contrast, the term “building-related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants. (1)

In so far as a health condition can be labeled, “Building-Related Illness” is what the EPA refers to when describing the otherwise unexplained symptoms from which office workers suffer. Based on the research results, copiers and printers are largely at fault.

Office Equipment Negatively Affects Indoor Air Quality

Xerox introduced the first desk-sized photocopier in 1959. At nearly 650 pounds, it was a monster of a machine. And it revolutionized how businesses operated. Today’s copying process, xerography, is largely the same method as the one debuted by Xerox. Image reproduction is a dry process, one that uses electrostatic charges on a light-sensitive photoreceptor to attract, then transfer, toner particles (which are in powder form) onto paper in the image of the original subject. Heat and pressure are then used to fuse the toner onto the paper. Laser printing works in a similar fashion.

The specific point at which the printing and copying process causes problems is when toner fuses to paper. When toner is heated, fumes, and particulates from chemicals such as styrene and benzene derivatives are released into the air. While the concentration levels released are generally low, they are dangerous to the average office worker due to exposure over the long term – day after day, and year after year of breathing in chemical dust and fumes can wreak havoc on human health. (3)

Overexposure to Volatile Organic Compounds

Whether one works in a large-scale copy center or at a desk that is near a copy machine or printer that serves five people, a bevy of pollutants is emitted into the air each time the machines are used. Toner and paper particles, toxic gases such as nitrogen dioxide and ozone are launched into a worker’s breathing space. (2) Toxicity studies have shown that the particulates that are inhaled have poor solubility and accumulate in the lungs. What follows can be a number of health complaints: headache, fatigue, breathlessness, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems – some quite severe. (3)

While most printers and copiers emit toxins and particulates at levels that are at or under recommended exposure levels, contact over a prolonged period of time can inflict long-term health effects.

What to Do About It

These studies don’t suggest that people stop using copiers or printers, as that would be vastly impractical advice. Office equipment like copying and printing machines are both essential in running a business. Minimizing exposure to equipment emissions is the only means of protecting the health of employees (4) and can be done easily, and cost-effectively:

  1. Employee workspaces should be located in areas that are well ventilated
  2. Air should recirculate with fresh air blended with the indoor source
  3. Equipment, when possible, should be located away from employee workspaces (5)
  4. In cases where emissions and/or worker health has already been compromised, the use of air cleaning systems should be employed

At AIR Systems Inc., we serve our customers who work in office environments by providing indoor air quality management solutions. Our air impurity removal systems remove air impurities for the health and peace of mind of both employee and business owner.

Contact us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.

Are There Volatile Organic Compounds Lurking In Your Office?

Are There Volatile Organic Compounds Lurking In Your Office? 1

While smoke and fumes are easily pinpointed as a cause of poor indoor air quality, there is a hidden danger that building occupants and workers might not be aware of and it could be inadvertently affecting their health. Known as volatile organic compounds, this potentially harmful substance is found in chemicals located around offices and other building areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. VOCs could be lurking in a building’s carpet or furnishings.

In addition to office spaces, items that can give off VOCs include paints, paint thinner and aerosol sprays. Offices are not the only structures that contain VOCs as other buildings such as laboratories, print shops, art rooms and more contain have VOCs and related odors. Even products that seem to be safe, such as air fresheners and dry-cleaned clothing contain VOCs.

These chemical contaminants are known to evaporate into the air, affecting the air quality and subsequently the health of those breathing in this environment. Since VOCs are released into the air, the air quality inside of a building could be exacerbated due to the concentration of chemicals in a confined space.

“Tests have shown that indoor concentrations of VOCs can be two to five times higher than outdoor concentrations,” the Natural Resources Defense Council said. “Immediately after the application of a high-VOC-emitting product, indoor levels can be more than 1,000 times higher than outdoor levels.”

According to the NRDC, high concentrations of VOCs are associated with various health issues, including headaches and itchy, watery or burning eyes. Severe symptoms of VOC chemical exposure also involve liver and nervous system damage and other health impacts might even include the development of cancer. VOCs also have the potential to harm the environment.

“In addition to the known health effects, VOCs are a principal ingredient of ground-level ozone, which in turn is a key component of urban smog,” NRDC said.

The NRDC adds that if companies purchase fewer items that have VOC emissions, they could help counteract the negative effects of these chemicals.

Steps to prevent the dangers of VOCs

There are a variety of ways employers can take a proactive approach toward limiting the amount of VOC exposure to workers.

Record complaints. As employers take chemical exposure from VOCs seriously, they should record and address any complaints about the indoor air quality of their building.

Choose products that emit low to no levels of VOCs. If possible, employers should choose items that have a limited amount of VOCs, including replacement carpets and substituting cleaners.

Correctly store cleaning products. Ensure cleaning chemicals are not placed near heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and be sure their containers are sealed.

Buy air filters. As a way to combat the presence of VOCs in an enclosed environment, employers can invest in gas and odor air filtration systems that have the ability to capture VOCs. Air cleaners are effective at removing other odors and chemicals. 

Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Air Pollution in School Buildings Can Cause Illness

Schools Are Vulnerable to Poor Air Quality, Which Can Affect Student Performance and Health

Schools and other educational facilities are vulnerable to poor air quality due to air pollution, which can affect student performance and health.

New research is highlighting poor air quality in schools and the effects of air pollution on students, USA Today reported.

Air quality is especially terrible when school buses are idling, according to Patrick Ryan, researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study.

“The concentration of air pollutants near schools often significantly exceeds background levels in the community, particularly when idling school buses are present,” Ryan said.

The study shows fine particles that measure 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller are concentrated in the air while buses and cars are loading and unloading passengers. Ryan is also author of a study that found a connection between outdoor pollutants and indoor air quality. He said air quality was generally good at the four schools he studied, but there was a difference in the quality of air inside if outdoor air pollution was reduced.

EPA Links Outdoor Pollutants With Indoor Air Quality

Ryan’s study is also supported by studies cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that list outdoor pollutants or vehicle exhaust as a cause of poor indoor air quality in schools. Other causes of indoor air quality problems include moisture and water damage, animal and other biological allergens, low ventilation rates and cleaning product chemicals. Air cleaners could lower the amount of pollutants causing indoor air quality problems and potential negative health effects.

The EPA cited scientific studies that state indoor air quality problems can lead to respiratory infections as well as adverse reactions to chemicals. The result of indoor air quality issues includes negative health effects in students as well as lowered ability to learn.

“Research links key environmental factors to health outcomes and students’ ability to perform,” according to the EPA on the effects of indoor air quality and student performance. “Improvements in school environmental quality can enhance academic performance, as well as teacher and staff productivity and retention.”

Despite schools and educational facilities having a variety of pollutant sources to control, there are different ways they can clean up indoor air quality. In order to help improve students’ ability to perform, schools could increase their outdoor air ventilation rates or eliminate the sources of pollutants, according to studies listed by the EPA. Studies also indicate reducing the amount of airborne particles, such as through air purification systems, could improve the health and comfort of building occupants.

Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.