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Saving Mona Lisa: Eliminate Indoor Air Pollution

Eradicate indoor air pollution in order to preserve precious works of art

Eradicate indoor air pollution in order to preserve precious works of art

In the art conservation industry, professional painting conservators will tell you that regardless of the monetary worth of your artifact, indoor air pollution will, at some point, negatively affect the intrinsic value of the piece. In fact, as soon as an artist finishes his or her creation, aging and deterioration begin. (1) Whether it’s fine art or a painting that is merely decorative, an object’s curator must be prepared to protect it.

Almost any surface – textile, fabric, wood or paper – can be used as a base for paint. Artists most often use paper or canvas and with both materials, there is a natural aging process. Even if meticulous care is given to a particular painting, deterioration will inevitably take place.

Degeneration of painted works of art occurs due to a number of factors, including moisture, heat, light, indoor air pollution and pests. Damage can be sudden or transpire over a long period of time. Some factors, like heat and light, can be addressed from the outset with specialized resources. And if pests are discovered, control efforts can be employed. But issues such as pollution and poor indoor air quality are more insidious due to the fact that fumes and gasses cannot be seen. Airborne pollutants can originate from sources in the atmosphere or from emissive products and objects. Many conventional paints, for example, emit gaseous VOCs (volatile organic compounds), such as formaldehyde. (2) And numerous products used to clean paintings, such as methyl ethyl ketone and acetone, are toxic.

Because of this ongoing threat, the work of painting conservators is hugely important. Art conservation includes the cleaning, preserving and repairing of works of art in addition to ethical mindfulness and scientific consideration. Within this specialized industry, those who work in preservation deal with controlling agents of deterioration such as humidity, temperature, pests, light, and dust and air pollution. Those who work on the restoration end care less about a painting’s history and more about aesthetics; about making a piece look new and polished while appearing to look original. For example, restoration can include repairing an item that has suffered paint loss, a weakened canvas, tears or other damage. Conserving preserves the structural stability and visual appearance, such as removing old varnish, repairing a torn canvas or securing flaking paint. (3)

Take the National Gallery’s collection, for example. There are upwards of 4,000 paintings, all created with varying types of enamels, oils, glues and wax. The art conservators on staff work around the clock to preserve and restore their paintings from the effects of pollutants and age. (4)

Broadly defined, a pollutant is a substance that has a detrimental effect on the environment and can cause harm to a person or object (including the health of a living thing). Impurities can be generated in or out but typically do the most damage when they are produced and located indoors. Airborne pollutants continue to challenge art conservators due to the fact that they are often invisible and signs of contamination do not appear until after damage has occurred. (5)

But art conservators have tools to combat poor indoor air quality in the form of pollution removal systems such as our bench-top and wall-mount source capture systems both of which provide the ultimate combination of consistent airflow along with superior filtration all in a compact design.

At Air Systems Inc., we serve our painting conservation customers by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to stellar IAQ products. Our air impurity removal systems create clean air to protect valuable works of art so that people can continue to enjoy them for many years to come.

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.

Spa and Salon Worker Transmission Risk

Indoor Air Quality and Covid-19

spa and salon worker transmission risk

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. 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. While those problems still exist, both spas and salons now have another potentially serious health concern: COVID-19.

As part of the US Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has long been the protector of the American worker. Volumes of standards and recommendations have been published benefiting laborers across all industries, including those employed at spas and salons. From ventilation recommendations for nail care personnel (1) to tips on avoiding chemical exposure for salon staff (2), OSHA has taken the lead in protecting employee health.

Now, in our country’s seventh month of pandemic-related closures, many local safety guidelines are being lifted and, in many areas, spas and salons are reopening. Is it safe to reopen? How at-risk are workers and the patrons they service?

The World Health Organization, which deemed COVID-19 a global health crisis, (3) explains its path of transmission:

COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These include saliva or respiratory droplets that are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example. People who are in close contact with an infected person can catch COVID-19 when those infectious droplets get into their mouth, nose or eyes. People with the virus in their noses and throats may leave infected droplets on objects and surfaces when they sneeze, cough on, or touch surfaces, such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. Other people may become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, noses or mouths before cleaning their hands.

Spas and salons, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for viruses. These types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces that create an environment ripe for germ-sharing. 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 in a matter of hours. That’s what makes cleaning and disinfecting so 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. An obviously ill worker is duty-bound to stay home. But what about the asymptomatic stylist who talks or clears her throat nearby or who, accidentally coughs near another person? The aerosols from that person can linger in the air and circulate. Which is to say, cleaning the air is as important as cleaning surfaces.

Even before COVID-19 hit the scene, the CDC made recommendations for controlling unhealthy occupational exposures in the form of their Hierarchy of Controls model. (4) This model offers five ways to reduce transmission among workers by adopting into practice the various control methods.

Spa and Salon Worker Transmission Risk 1

While social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and wiping down surfaces make workplaces safer, the most effective control measure is elimination. It is often the most difficult “control” to implement due to cost and any potentially complicated mechanical structures that exist in a building. Among the list of control measures, the CDC suggests these engineering initiatives as additional preventive measures: (4)

  • Use ventilated tables or portable ventilation units, if available. Move the ventilation units to make sure they do not blow air from one person to another.
  • If possible, salon owners and managers should work with facilities (building) management to adjust the ventilation so that the maximum amount of fresh air is sent into to client spaces, while maintaining the humidity at 40-60%. If possible, increase filter efficiency of HVAC units to highest level possible.
  • Consider using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units to remove contaminants and clean the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underscores the CDC recommendations by advocating for the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to reduce transmission threat in higher-risk areas (5) (such as waiting areas and spaces where multiple stylists and/or customers are located).
What makes using these air cleaners with HEPA filtration a powerful tool against viral transmission is that these products 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 to protecting spa and salon workers and their customers.

Our Salon Pure Air line of air filtration and purification products not only removes fumes and odors from the source but with our 987 AMB HEPA Room Air Scrubber also removes up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact Air Impurities Removal Systems Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.