Indoor Air Quality Issues At Craft Breweries

Craft Breweries Are Particularly Vulnerable to CO2 Contaminants.

Craft Breweries Are Particularly Vulnerable To CO2 Poisoning.

In the last 20 years, craft brews have amassed a following that would have been unimaginable back when our Founding Fathers briefly entertained the idea to create a federal brewery to curb the growing popularity of spirits with the American public. Though the idea was eventually dismissed, malt beverages remained a favorite among the signers of the Declaration Of Independence. So much so, that when Thomas Jefferson retired from public service, he engaged in the art of beer making full-time. President Jefferson and his wife used hops and malts grown near their Monticello estate and developed their first bottled homebrew in 1812.

A lot has changed since then. Craft brewing is no longer a hobby only for gentlemen in the political elite. It has grown into a wildly popular global enterprise.

Other than the distinction, craft brewers include brewpubs, regional craft breweries, and microbreweries.

Craft Beer’s Meteoric Rise and What Exactly is a “Craft Brew”?

To get some perspective on the meteoric rise of craft breweries in America, consider the following statistic. In 1994 there were just over 500 microbrewers, today there are over 5000. Craft brewers are so ubiquitous that the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of one.

The American Beer Association defines it thus: (1)

An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.

Small in that its annual production is 6 million barrels or less. Independent if less than 25% of the business is owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. And, traditional if the beer is derived from conventional or innovative brewing ingredients.

Craft Brewery Workplace Dangers Presented by CO2 Contaminants

It’s no surprise that with such rapid growth and the need to meet consumer demand, some craft brewers have been unprepared for the dangers that poor indoor air quality can create. Even large non-craft breweries, with their sophisticated worker protection systems and safety protocols, can fall victim to the perils of CO2 contaminants. Take, for example, an incident at Anheuser-Busch five years ago. OSHA cited the brewing giant for failing to protect workers from CO2 contaminants as they worked in brewery cellars (2). The following year seven plant workers died at a Corona Brewery production facility in Mexico after entering a fermentation tank for routine maintenance. The Corona Brewery deaths were believed to be a result of noxious inhalation from toxins that included carbon dioxide. (3)

What Are CO2 Contaminants and What Are Their Role in the Brewing Process?

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a naturally occurring chemical compound (containing 2 oxygen atoms and one carbon atom). Carbon dioxide is a common and ever-present natural gas. It is colorless, odorless, and is an important part of Earth’s carbon cycle. All humans and animals carry CO2 in their blood and exhale it when they breathe.

In the brewing business, carbon dioxide is used in carbonated beverages. It is also an organic result of the fermentation process. When overexposed to CO2 contaminants, a range of hazardous side effects, including central nervous system and respiratory damage, can occur. And when carbon dioxide levels are dangerously high, fatalities can follow. (3)

man standing at a brewing machine

In any brewery, CO2 contaminants might accumulate – as a result of a leak or poor IAQ – in confined areas like fermentation tanks or walk-in coolers. And because elevated levels of CO2 are undetectable to unsuspecting workers, (4) toxic poisoning can strike instantaneously – with no indication to the victim. (5)In most cases, dizziness, headache, and increased heart rate will occur. But at that point, a person may be too confused to recognize the symptoms or too ill to respond. Asphyxiation, unconsciousness, and death could follow. (6)

Protecting Workers

Though fatalities from carbon dioxide poisoning are rare in big, established breweries, they do happen, as the aforementioned examples prove. The craft brewer, absent the same large-scale engineering and safety procedures that large manufacturers have in place, may not as easily apply comparable measures. For this reason, small breweries must be proactive in implementing stringent safety measures to ensure that CO2 contaminants are contained at all times.

At AIR Systems Inc, we protect our customers in the craft brewing industry with our stellar products. For the safety and peace of mind of you and your workforce, contact us today for a free indoor air quality assessment from one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.

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)

Filter Change Frequency Is Based On Contaminant Type

With companies increasingly employing air filtration technology to remove environmental contaminant types like dust, smoke and chemicals, users are often asking when they should change their filters. To keep air cleaners working their best, you should regularly replace filters and absorption media to ensure peak performance and maximize worker respiratory protection.

Changing Your Prefilter or Primary Particulate Filter

When using Extra-All air filtration equipment, you should keep in mind that these devices have both a prefilter and a primary particulate filter, which work together to effectively capture impurities in the air. After a certain period, particulates may clog and slow down your system’s ability to filter out containments. In case you notice your filtration systems are not working as well, you should first check your equipment’s prefilter. If you detect the air flow is weak, change out the prefilter before moving on to the primary filter if your device still doesn’t work at full capacity.

Types of Contaminants Determine Frequency to Switch Out Filters

After determining whether you should switch out your primary filter, figure out the main contaminants your filter mainly works to prevent because this will factor into which filter you need to change and how often. When your air filtration equipment mostly filters out impurities like dust and smoke, the particulate filter might be the component you should focus on. On the other hand, if your system largely eliminates chemical fumes and vapors – which is the case for fume extraction equipment – you should use the right vapor removable module.
Users with gas and fume reduction filters will have to pay attention to the time between filter changes. Equipment that extracts light vapors primarily will have to be changed every 6 to 12 months. Equipment that handles more heavy vapors should be switched out more frequently with a new filter every 1 to 4 months.

With regular filter changes, your filtration equipment will work optimally to maintain a healthy environment for you and your staff.