Laboratory

There is an Easy Fix for Laboratory Workers’ Air Quality Risk

Fume hoods are used by 82 percent of R&D Magazine readers, according to a recent survey.

In a chemistry laboratory setting, worker safety is ensured through proper training and handling of chemicals, equipment and other tools like ductless fume hoods. Research laboratories across the country are looking to change their safety practices after a chemistry facility at the University of California at Los Angeles was found to have safety violations, according to Science Magazine. The American Chemical Society issued a recent report as guidance for laboratories and academic institutions to improve safety protocols.

At the core of the report’s approach is the task of dealing with laboratory hazards before work is undertaken. “Hazard identification, hazard evaluation and hazard mitigation in laboratory operations are critical skills that need to be part of any laboratory worker’s education,” the report said. “Integrating these concepts into research activities is a discipline researchers must establish to ensure a safe working environment for themselves and their colleagues.”

The University of California system is now making safety training mandatory for every worker – from students and faculty to visitors – interacting with labs and scientific stockrooms.

Importance of Fume Hoods in a Laboratory Setting

Fume hoods are integral in a chemistry lab setting, according to a survey of researchers and scientists conducted by R&D Magazine. In the survey, fume hoods were in the top three of the most used technologies or laboratory instruments used by the publication’s readers. Meters and monitors were the most used instruments as 86 percent of respondents said they used these devices, followed by balances at 84 percent and fume hoods at 82 percent.

When asked which equipment needed the most improvement, one-third of respondents said they had problems with performance regarding analyzers, detectors, fume hoods as well as imaging systems. Respondents said fume hoods were one of the pieces of equipment they were least likely to experience issues regarding accuracy as only 6 percent of survey takers said they had these kinds of problems. Almost half (48 percent) of respondents said they required no additional improvements to fume hoods.

OSHA Recommendations for Fume Hoods

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends that laboratory workers should be protected using a fume hood when they are handling chemicals that may be flammable or toxic. OSHA’s laboratory standard requires that fume hoods are functional and maintained. If hoods are not working optimally, workers should report any defects to their supervisor immediately.

OSHA said laboratory employees need to understand the hazards involved with the chemicals they are working with.

“When the work to be performed changes, that change must be evaluated against the current hazards analysis to determine if the hazards analysis continues to be sufficient,” the ACS report said. “If this is not done, the researcher could begin the task not fully armed with the knowledge and mitigations to do the work safely.”

Workers should also know how the fume hood operates to properly operate them. They should make sure there are no obstructions to airflow through the hood’s baffles or exhaust slots. In protecting parts of their body, workers need to ensure that their head does not enter the plane of the hood opening and they have correct eye protection.

Nanomaterial Exposure Poses Potential Risks To Workers

NIOSH recommends laboratories and research labs employ fume hoods to reduce nanomaterial exposure for workers.

NIOSH recommends laboratories and research labs employ fume hoods to reduce nanomaterial exposure for workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently issued new guidelines for limiting employee exposure to industry nanomaterials, according to Occupational Health and Safety Magazine.

The report by NIOSH, the leading federal agency for safety and health recommendations regarding nanotechnology, includes a hierarchy of engineering controls for use during the development of nanotechnology in manufacturing and other industries.

NIOSH defines nanotechnology as modifying atomic matter to create innovative structures, materials and products. While knowledge of occupational health risks surrounding nanotechnology is limited, NIOSH said studies have shown low solubility nanoparticles may be more hazardous than larger particles considering mass basis.

“As we continue to work with diverse partners to study the health effects produced by exposure to nanomaterials, particularly as new materials and products continue to be introduced, it is prudent to protect workers now from potential adverse health outcomes,” NIOSH Director John Howard said.

Howard said the organization’s suggestions are crucial for making nanotechnology safe and to keep the U.S. as a leader in the global market. In lowering health risk exposure regarding nanomaterials, NIOSH suggests workers exercise certain precautions, such as using engineering controls.

“Potential exposure control approaches for commonly used processes include commercial technologies, such as a laboratory fume hood, or techniques adopted from the pharmaceutical industry, such as continuous liner product bagging systems,” the report said.

Nanotechnology labs most likely to use fume hoods

The most common control used by nanotechnology firms and research labs is a fume hood, according to a survey conducted in 2006. Listed as a key piece of equipment for handling nanomaterials, fume hoods are effective control technologies especially for labs. In the survey, two-thirds of firms said they used a fume hood to reduce nanomaterial and chemical exposure for workers.

In the guide, NIOSH recommends a chemical fume hood for the process or task of small-scale weighing for the nanotechnology industry. Small-sale weighing involves workers weighing out nanomaterials through scooping, pouring or dumping of materials.

NIOSH said fume hood operators should put hoods away from certain areas that are vulnerable to cross drafts such as doors, window and aisles. Workers should also have exhaust air discharge stacks pointed away from these same areas.

In addition to nanoparticle exposure during nanopowder material handling, laboratory fume hoods can also guard against sources of natural nanoparticles, such as tree pollen, and could be used for welding fume extraction.

Laboratory news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.

Conserve Energy and Improve IAQ in Hospital Laboratories

Hospital laboratories can improve their energy efficiency by using fume hoods.

Hospital Laboratories can improve their energy efficiency by using fume hoods.

Hospital laboratories are a major factor in energy and water waste within hospitals. This is due to the fact they need a significant amount of environmental control measures in place, including sophisticated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. When implementing ways to improve their labs’ energy efficiency, there are a variety of ways hospitals can reduce energy costs. One of the most effective methods is installing fume hoods to enhance energy conservation, according to Healthcare Design.

In a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, approximately 3,040 of large hospital buildings total 1.96 billion square feet of floorspace​, with an average of 644,300 square feet per building in 2007. Considering this vast amount of floorspace is estimated to hold a total of 3.3 million employees, hospitals use a huge amount of energy to create a comfortable environment for staff and patients using HVAC systems.

“All buildings had air conditioning and nearly all, 92 percent, used electricity to power air conditioning equipment,” the EIA said in its report. “Water heating was also used in all buildings and had fuel use percentages similar to space heating: 74 percent used natural gas and 18 percent used district heat.”

How to use fume hoods correctly in hospital settings

When operating fume hoods to improve the effectiveness of HVAC systems, ensure they are being used correctly. Hospital workers can maintain air exchange needs by shutting the hood sash to improve fume hood functionality. In addition to enhancing energy conservation for hospital labs, fume hoods can also extract chemicals. Ductless fume hood and hoods equipped with an advanced molecular carbon filter can absorb chemicals. Through the proper use of fume hoods and ductless fume hoods, hospitals can lower their energy costs and improve their indoor air quality.

One hospital that makes sure to educate its users on fume hoods is Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, N.Y.

“Hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials must be controlled to protect the health and safety of the Hospital community,” Stony Brook said about its procedures for using chemical fume hoods. “In order to prevent inhalation of vapors, gases and aerosols, the contaminants must be captured, contained and removed by the use of hoods.”

Stony Brook recommends that users should ensure their work station is clean before using the fume hood to avoid blocking airflow to slots.

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

Indoor Air Quality and Camphor Production

The Camphor Producing Industry Is No Stranger To Indoor Air Quality Issues

What is Camphor

When the reds, greens, blues, and gold of an elaborate fireworks display lights up the sky, it is usually awe and gratitude that fill us. But for those on the ground, lighting those explosives, they are being filled with something not so inspiring: camphor fumes.

Native to Asian countries such as China and Japan, camphor is derived from the camphor laurel, an evergreen tree with many branches, white flowers, and red berries. At maturity, the camphor tree is enormous – between 80-120 feet tall, with a trunk that reaches 6 feet in diameter. To isolate the benefits, the substance is extracted from the tree, and then distilled. In it’s natural state, camphor is colorless or waxy white, with a strong characteristic odor. (1)

Camphor, a prized botanical, has been used in China and India for centuries as a medicinal curative. In the US, camphor is valued for its properties as a cough suppressant and decongestant, antimicrobial substance and a natural insect repellent. In addition, camphor is used as a topical liniment, medicinal and cosmetic preservative, plasticizer and embalming fluid. It is also an ingredient in explosives, including fireworks. (2)

Back in the late 1800s, as Western manufacturers produced more firepower and munitions, US military commanders looked for ways to reduce battlefield smoke that obscured the vision of their fighting troops. Camphor, that cloudy, stinky substance at the base of vapor rubs, saved the day – and countless lives — by contributing to the creation of a smokeless gunpowder.

With all these beneficial qualities, it might seem surprising that there are significant health risks for those who manufacture it.

The Camphor Producing Industry is No Stranger to Indoor Air Quality Issues

The CDC warns that camphor dust and fumes have multiple routes of exposure: inhalation, ingestion, absorption, and skin/eye contact. Various stages of production, such as the distilling process, can inadvertently expose workers to vapors or particulates. Even during manufacturing of the synthetic product, significant ill effects are still an occupational risk.

Short-term (acute) exposure will occur at the point of contact and should dissipate when exposure desists. On-site symptoms can begin with signs such as nausea and vomiting or eye and skin irritation. However, for heavy doses of toxic contamination, symptoms can quickly turn to severe, even dire. Convulsions, seizures, and respiratory failure can potentially result in death.

The signs of long-term (chronic) exposure, on the other hand, are often more difficult to recognize. Subtle allergic reactions and eye discomfort could be assumed to be from allergens because a person can exhibit ill health effects, even when they are no longer working. So, too, can other symptoms be overlooked. Nausea, anxiety, headache, and confusion may not be considered side effects of occupational exposure. If the victim is not at work at the time signs become obvious. (4)

Protecting Workers

Further troubling is the fact that camphor dust is combustible and contains explosive properties. (3) If not controlled properly, disaster can strike. Thankfully, probability of fire, explosion, and occupational exposure to toxic concentrations of camphor is low, if proper precautions are taken.

Most manufacturing plants, including those that generate camphor-related products, already employ safe work measures in the form of protective clothing and engineering controls. But it can prove prudent to employ an extra line of defense. The installation of source capture equipment and/or ambient air-cleaning systems is one more way to combat indoor air pollution.

At AIR Systems Inc., we serve our customers 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.

Implement Air Purification Solutions to Prevent Hazardous Drug Exposure

Implement air purification solutions to prevent hazardous drug exposure 1

While drugs can help patients recover from devastating ailments and diseases, the drugs administered to patients may harm healthcare workers. Long term exposure to these drugs, such as those used for chemotherapy, could result in workers themselves developing negative health effects. An estimated 8 million healthcare workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs that may be harmful to their health, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Workplace exposure may result in acute and chronic health conditions, including skin rashes, and staff may even develop cancers such as leukemia.

Healthcare staff who may work in a position that involves exposure to these types of drugs include: pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, nurses, physicians and physician assistants as well as operating room personnel.

“Workers may be exposed to hazardous drugs when they create aerosols, generate dust, clean up spills, or touch contaminated surfaces when compounding, administering, or disposing of hazardous drugs or patient waste,” according to NIOSH.

NIOSH said the amount of exposure to hazardous drugs determines how toxic they may be to healthcare staff. In knowing these health risks, employers may want to encourage workers to protect themselves using engineering controls and by following administrative policies when handling these drugs.

Techniques and equipment to prevent exposure to hazardous drugs

​NIOSH recommends that employers perform a risk assessment of the workplace to identify the drugs that workers will be exposed to, such as the types of drugs that are administered and handled. The agency recommends that employers determine the working environment, including the physical layout of work areas. In this way, healthcare facilities can better improve the safety procedures and utilize the engineering controls they have for hazardous drugs. 

Workers could choose to implement closed system transfer devices (CSTDs), which are becoming increasingly used in hospitals, according to Pharmacy Practice News. A CSTD is a medical device to transfer drugs without hazardous drugs or fumes from escaping. While hospitals could purchase these devices, healthcare employers could also consider employing other engineering controls that focus on cleaning air to prevent exposure.

When drug preparation causes hazardous emissions, air purification is key. Removing toxic fumes before they enter a worker’s breathing space is crucial for ensuring employee wellness. Indoor air cleaning equipment such as our 989 model will help pharmacists and healthcare facilities maintain a healthy IAQ.

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

Combustible Dust Hazards, Unseen Explosive Threats

air-impurities-removal-systems-inc-an-unseen-explosive-threat

On the big screen, fantastic blasts make for an exciting cinematic experience. But in real life, explosions are something to be feared and avoided with great vigilance.

Triggers for workplace blasts fall into two categories: fumes and dust. While fumes can often be detected by smell, combustible dust hazards are much more insidious. Combustible dust particles can hide in workshop and factory nooks and crannies and can ignite with only the smallest of sparks.  Combustible dust hazards are imminent when the right conditions are present – the result of which can be a massively destructive and deadly explosion. Disasters in production facilities from China to California and Tennessee to Tanzania underscore the real threat posed by combustible dust hazards in the workplace

Pharmaceutical companies are particularly exposed due to the materials used in the formulation of their products. Ingredients used in the making of oral dosage products are finely divided solid particles containing flammable oxidants in dust form. These powdery bits can linger in the atmosphere, then fall and hide on heat-inducing processing equipment which can cause an explosion. As a result, new particles are sent into the air which can ignite, creating residual particle matter which can then cause additional explosions. These secondary blasts are typically more destructive because they are less localized.

combustible dust in pharmaceutical industry

To understand why the pharmaceutical industry is at particular risk, one must be reminded of the formula for particulate matter combustion using the “Dust Explosion Pentagon” as a guide. The five factors, oxygen, heat, fuel, dispersion, and confinement all exist in the formulation and processing of oral products at pharmaceutical facilities. The ignition of concealed ingredient dust particulates is a frightening and very real possibility.

While pharma manufacturers are aware of combustible dust hazards as they relate to the products they process, containment of ingredient-based particulate matter remains a constant battle. At Air Systems Inc., we have the experience, depth of knowledge, and superior products to protect pharmaceutical companies and their employees from the threat of at-work explosions. Contact us today to set up an appointment with one of our air quality specialists.

Poor Indoor Air Quality Negatively Affects Employee Health, Productivity

While employers may concentrate on employee management techniques that will help increase productivity, they may neglect to focus on a factor that will influence both worker output and health: indoor environmental quality. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines indoor environmental quality as the quality of a building’s environment when connected to worker health and well-being. NIOSH said this determinant of employee well-being is often influenced by air quality.

Numerous studies have connected the effects of air pollutants to worker productivity, showing impurities in the air may actually lower productivity and therefore economic growth.

Since worker productivity is often dependent on health, employees may feel less productive if air pollution is affecting their health, according to nonprofit Brookings Institution. Air impurities may have more severe effects as they could lead to more respiratory problems and a higher chance of infant mortality.

Removing Indoor Air Pollutants Increases Building Energy Efficiency

Another study published by the International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy, Technical University of Denmark suggested indoor air quality contributes to lower productivity because building occupants may feel uncomfortable.

The study authors found getting rid of sources of air pollution, such as floor-coverings, helped improve indoor air quality. Another method used to enhance the building’s environmental quality was to supply them with clean outdoor air.

Since ventilation is a key part of worker safety and productivity, employers should focus on providing their workers with adequate ventilation to increase air circulation and reduce the number of pollutants in an indoor space.

While authors said having higher amounts of outdoor air helped, the study found building energy use is significantly impacted by various efforts to reduce pollutant levels. 

“It is usually more energy-efficient to eliminate sources of pollution than to increase outdoor air supply rates,” the Denmark-based study concluded. “The experiments summarized in this article have documented and quantified relationships that can be used in making cost-benefit analyses of either solution for a given building.”

As an energy-efficient way to remove air impurities, companies should invest in air filtration systems to extract pollutants and replace them with clean air to enhance worker productivity and health. Since workers can greatly benefit from cleaner indoor air that could lead to higher output, companies may see higher revenue growth. 

By Chris Zehner

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

Clearing the Air About Workplace IAQ

A Basic Overview Of “Indoor Air Quality”

Clearing The Air About Workplace IAQ 1

The energy crisis during the 1970s created a need for environmental reform.  Among other topics, indoor air quality became a line item on the agenda for change.  Today, workplace IAQ broadly refers to the quality of air in any place of employment. Business owners, building administrators, company management and employees all hold a responsibility in seeing that the quality of air in the place in which they conduct business is clean and contaminant-free.  This is important not only for the welfare of the building occupants but for their guests and patrons, as well.

What is considered “good” IAQ?  According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, good IAQ has the following qualities: (1)

  1. Comfortable temperature and humidity
  2. Proper indoor ventilation
  3. Adequate supply of fresh outdoor air
  4. Pollutant control from both inside and out

Common Pollutants

Most industries are diligent about providing a clean and unpolluted environment for their workers.  But pollution has a way of existing without ever being seen.  Here are some common causes of unclean air in the workplace: (2)

  1. Improperly maintained HVAC systems
  2. Office/workspace overcrowding
  3. Gas fumes/toxins
  4. Moisture/dampness
  5. Presence of workplace created contaminants
  6. Presence of external pollutants

The types of pollutants are variable and depend on the workplace and the activities produced therein.  Common pollutants generally fall into one (or more) of three main categories: biological, chemical, and particulate.  (3) These pollutants are caused by a myriad of job-related activities that can produce the release of fumes and vapors, particle discharge, and humidity fluctuations.  In addition, faulty equipment, the growth of molds and bacteria, remodeling or restoration efforts, and all day-to-day actions of people at work further affect the environmental atmosphere.  (4)

Many jobs deal with and produce toxins and particulate matter as a matter of course.  Manufacturers create and come into contact with contaminants non-stop.  Some of the most dangerous IAQ offenders are – but are not limited to –

Asbestos – from insulation and ceiling and floor tiles

Carbon Dioxide & Carbon Monoxide – from improperly functioning utilities and piping

Formaldehyde – and other chemical fumes from items like carpeting, particleboard and furniture

VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) – such as gases from fragrances, solvents and paints 

Identifying Poor IAQ

Failure to identify potential IAQ offenders and clues of contaminated air will eventually result in health problems for the people who work inside the buildings.  Recognizing symptoms is the first step in combating the problem.

Signs of illness usually start gradually.  Some workers may complain about workday symptoms – like headaches or confusion – that clear up when they get home.  Other indicators like fever, respiratory discomfort, and chronic cough may linger and be indicative of a more serious problem.  But the symptoms related to dirty air are variable and depend on the health of the worker, the contaminant they are in contact with and the amount of time spent with said pollutant.

Knowledge is power for the American worker and having all the facts is required to maintain a clean indoor environment.  Federal organizations such as OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (a division of the CDC) exist for the sole purpose of educating the workforce about occupational hazards and for creating and implementing standards to keep workers safe while doing their jobs.  To that end, both organizations recommend a proactive approach to addressing indoor environmental concerns.  Failure to act quickly when IAQ problems present themselves, can lead to additional and potentially more serious problems.

At AIR Systems Inc, we serve our customers by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air cleaning products.  Call us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists.  (5)

Indoor Air Quality in the Time of Covid-19 2020 Year End Review

Indoor Air Quality in the time of Covid-19 2020 Year End Review 3

2020 has been a year of significant events in America. Our president was impeached. The stock market crashed. Wildfires ravaged parts of the west coast and murder hornets wreaked havoc on honeybee colonies. Civil rights protests continue alongside legal challenges to the results of our national election. And of course, COVID.

Of these trials, none have been more life-changing than Covid-19. The statistics are staggering:

Infections, Global: 77,557,000+
Deaths 1,707,000+

Infections, U.S.: 18,058,000+
Deaths 320,000+ (as of 12/23/20) (1)

At various locations around the country, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on citizens, businesses, and schools are in place due to the highly transmissible nature of this deadly virus. But some workers are expected to work, even during a pandemic. For example, medical personnel, essential office support, and health and wellness employees must be present while their businesses are open. In many areas, students and teachers need to be on school grounds or they risk loss-of-income or instruction. And patients need treatment.

Researchers know that the novel 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, staying outdoors, and wearing face coverings are effective in preventing the spread.

Unfortunately, airflow is limited while indoors, and physical distancing is often not possible. And while the virus picks no favorites in whom it afflicts, some occupations are at higher risk than others, simply by the nature of what they do or the buildings they occupy.

Here is an overview of just some of the businesses we have supported during this past year and why they are vulnerable.

Hospitals & Medical Centers

For centuries, hospitals have worn the mantle of medical care for patients. But their mission to safeguard human life has been severely tested during the coronavirus outbreak as medical facilities are also places where pathogens can linger and spread.

The need for additional measures of protection have never been more important.

Patients and healthcare workers alike benefit from existing healthcare practices such as personal protective equipment and environmental control. But for the most aggressive infectious diseases, like Covid-19, additional measures such as portable air cleaners and negative pressure HEPA machines for patient isolation will make the difference between potentially lethal illness and health. (10)

College Housing & Common Areas

The U.S. Department of Education lists more than 4,000 academic institutions of higher learning (2) at which nearly 20 million students attend.

In addition to students, at every one of these schools there are hundreds – in some cases thousands – of workers, many of whom commute from other areas, widening the scope of transmissibility. And an alarming number of them are getting sick. With barely a month back at school, there were more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 reported from campuses across all 50 states. (2a). That was in September. The numbers have more than doubled since that time.

Containing the spread of viruses and other illnesses has always been a challenge on college campuses. Think how colds and flu thrive there – classrooms, residential housing, cafeterias – all of these locations are enclosed spaces that tend to be crowded, often with poor ventilation. Add to that the very nature of college social life – dorm and fraternity parties, clubs and team sporting events, college bars – plus the diminished judgment of many younger people, and germ-sharing becomes communal. Students living in residential housing are particularly vulnerable.

Dental Offices

The greatest risk of transmission is through aerosolization such as a cough or a sneeze. But in dental offices, germs can also spread during routine procedures and oral surgeries that generate their own aerosols. (3)

Dental aerosols are defined as the splatters, mists, and droplets created from the use of certain dental instruments. These fine sprays and particles include saliva, blood, plaque, and oral debris and can travel distances up to 20 feet. The use of high-speed equipment such as scalers and drills allow pathogens the opportunity to spread rapidly (3a), particularly during surgeries where oral emissions enter the breathing space of dental workers.

Fitness Centers & Locker Rooms

Pre-Covid, the most common thing athletes, coaches, and sports teams worried about in terms of clean air in their locker rooms was primarily focused on odor control. Then there was MRSA.

For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (4) plagued athletes from high school all the way up to the pros. But now, coronavirus (4a) poses an even greater threat. For athletic departments and professional sports teams across the nation, maintaining good health presents considerable challenges – ones that professional teams and athletic departments are now trying to conquer.

Nursing Homes

Presently, there are over 51 million Americans 65 and older in the United States in contrast to the over-195 million adults under age 65. And yet, older Americans make up 55% of all adults at-risk for serious complications if infected with Covid-19. As of December 1st, more than 100,000 US deaths from Covid-19 were linked to 28,000 senior care institutions. (5) While only 5% of the country’s cases have occurred in these types of facilities, nursing home residents represent 38% of Covid-19 deaths. Simply put, if you are an adult over the age of 65 and live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, your chance of becoming infected by Covid-19 and then dying from it, are higher than any other group in the country. Why are these populations more at risk?

Nursing homes – like many medical institutions – have long been breeding grounds for communicable diseases. Consider the communal nature of elder-care facilities. There is frequent physical contact between patients and staff, residents often share rooms, and many of them are shuttled back and forth between hospitals and doctor’s offices where germs run rampant. (5a) And while coronavirus is blind to age per se, it feeds on those with weak or compromised health profiles.

Offices

Office environments, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for germs. Office employees spend the majority of their waking hours during the week inside, sharing space with others. This creates an atmosphere ripe for germ-sharing. Consider the seasonal flu. As we all know, year after year, every American becomes a potential vector for the infection, every surface, a possible hot spot for transmission. If even one doorknob or computer keyboard has a transmissible bug, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that workspace in a matter of hours.

Common areas like meeting and break rooms, waiting areas, and exit and entryways (6) are examples of places where germ transmission is more likely and where social distancing needs to be enforced.

Schools

Poor indoor air quality in schools has been known to hamper student wellness even before Covid. In addition to communicable infections, pollutants such as molds, dusts, and fumes can negatively impact a student’s wellness, ability to concentrate, and classroom performance. (7)

Schools are vulnerable for a variety of reasons (7a). Schools tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces and children, even those who are young adults, are inclined to pack together tightly, with little to no thought given to personal space. Think: cafeterias at lunchtime and indoor spectator events viewed from bleachers. Think: crowded hallways and stairwells in between classes. Lastly, minors are more likely to cough and breathe in direct proximity to others and share food, drinks, and personal items.

Spas & Salons

Indoor Air Quality in spa and beauty salons has been a concern since the dawn of their opening. For hair shops, cancer-causing formaldehyde was enemy number one due to the toxic fumes emitted from perms, dyes, and hair-straightening treatments. (8a) For nail salons, it was the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in lacquers, adhesives, and polish removers that presented the most serious occupational health risk. (8) While those problems still exist, Covid-19 has become the greater concern.

The spread of infection in spas and salons is heightened because these types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces making social distancing difficult. Every spa table, sink, chair, and surface are possible hot spots for transmission. If even one hairbrush or cabinet knob has a communicable microbe, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that shop or salon days before someone shows symptoms.

What To Do

Obviously, cleaning and disinfecting are crucial. But COVID-19 transmission is more common by way of airborne respiratory droplets, meaning that the biggest risk of viral spread comes from sick people, not from objects. Staying at home is the best way to avoid contact.
But millions of workers, students, and medical patients need to leave their homes. How can one be sure that they are positioned for wellness rather than illness? The answer is clean air.

CDC recommended control measures for improving indoor air quality indicate that “elimination” is the most effective means of reducing transmission of Covid-19 and advocates the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners as an additional means of reducing viral spread.

Air cleaners with HEPA filtration are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out the impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective means of avoiding the spread of illness.

Our air cleaning and purification products not only remove fumes and odors from the source but when paired with our HEPA filtration systems, also remove up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our clean air specialists.

Presidential Executive Order: COVID-19 and Worker Protection

What this means for businesses regarding indoor air quality

Presidential Executive Order: Covid-19 and Worker Protection 1
On January 21, 2021, a Presidential Executive Order was signed regarding the policy of ensuring the health and safety of American workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (1)

Before this order was issued, OSHA developed a Covid-19 planning guide (2) to help businesses identify workplace risk levels and determine what measures were appropriate to implement.

The order states that the Federal government should take swift action to reduce Covid-19 transmission risk in the workplace. Section 2 of the order specifies that under the OSHA Act, revised guidelines will be given to employers and that coordination with state governments will be executed so as to ensure adequate protection against Covid-19 for all workers.

Specifically, the EO orders OSHA to:

1. Issue revised guidelines to employers regarding Covid-19 worker safety measures. Note: this is NOT a directive for OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards.
2. Consider whether new – but temporary – mask wearing requirements are needed.
3. Review OSHA enforcement efforts.
4. Launch a national program related to Covid-19 violations creating occupational risk.
5. Coordinate with states that have workplace safety plans to help ensure adequate worker protection.
6. Partner with US Department of Labor’s public affairs office and OSHA regional offices to create and implement a multilingual outreach campaign.

The White House set forth this order not just to underscore the importance of following existing OSHA regulations, but to reduce – if not eliminate – workplace risk of Covid-19 transmission.

What does this mean in terms of indoor air quality? It means that anything that could negatively affect worker health and safety – in the context of this current pandemic – should be addressed and remedied. Cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing isn’t enough if workplace air is unhealthy. A clean and uncontaminated environment is crucial for worker wellness.

The EPA states there are three basic strategies to improving indoor air quality:

  1. Source Control
  2. Improved Ventilation
  3. Air Cleaners (3) 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes further and states that air purifiers have the potential to further reduce exposure to virus-laden aerosols and serve as a useful supplement to other protective procedures. (4)

Regardless of industry, every profession has its own challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Fortunately, the key to providing a healthy IAQ is the same regardless of the type of business. The solution is employing air purification / filtration methods.

Here are just five examples of businesses and their specific IAQ challenges:

Schools

Primary schools, unlike personal residences, commercial buildings, and office structures, tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces. For example, K-12 schools struggle with social distancing in congested areas such as cafeterias and classrooms (5), while colleges face challenges with areas such as student housing and lecture halls. Germ-sharing is communal at many schools. But it doesn’t need to be.

Dental Offices

Many dentists operate out of small offices where proper ventilation may be compromised. Unhealthy air could threaten worker health every time a patient opens his mouth – which is done often and without a mask during dental procedures. The aerosols created during patient treatment are emitted into the air and linger unless airflow and ventilation are suitable. (6)

Spas, Salons, Barbershops

These types of businesses are often located in smaller, tighter spaces which can create an environment ripe for transmitting illness. Workers are unable to social distance from their clients, putting them in harm’s way if someone is sick. Air purification and constant air flow help combat viral transmission.

Nursing Homes

In any healthcare facility, the potential for communicable diseases to enter a worker’s breathing space is an ongoing risk. Even more so at nursing homes, where transmission and death rates are particularly high. While only 7% of the country’s cases have occurred in nursing homes, residents there represent 40% of all US Covid-19 deaths. (7)

Gyms, Health Clubs, Sports Facilities

Indoor places where heavy breathing and sweating regularly occur require extra attention. (8) When people are outside, droplets from exhalations, coughing, and sneezing are dispersed into the air more quickly. But indoors, viral spray can linger, increasing the potential for transmission.
What Can Businesses Do to Improve IAQ?

Portable HEPA Filtration

Before new guidelines are issued and officially in place, businesses of all types can safeguard worker health by reducing the threat of viral transmission. In addition to social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting, establishments – wherever space and funding will allow it – can add portable HEPA filtration systems to their virus-combating arsenal.

The reason why air cleaners with HEPA filtration are powerful tools against viral transmission is that they are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. Used exclusively, air cleaning and filtration are not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective way to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates.

Our portable HEPA filter air cleaning systems come in three different models, the filtration and recirculation capabilities ranging in room sizes as small as your typical classroom to multi-use areas up to 1200 sq. ft.

To find out more about our air purifying systems – such as our 987-AMB-HEPA model – contact Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.