There are concerted efforts at both the local and national levels not only to combat climate change, but also to protect the planet’s most precious resource: air. Many states and municipalities, particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, have enacted legislation to encourage the use of low-emission vehicles, carpooling and solar energy. But its air quality indoors, particularly in office settings, that requires immediate attention.
The levels of air pollutants indoors are anywhere from two to 100 times higher than outdoor levels, according to data compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since most full-time office workers spend a vast majority of their time indoors, its imperative that companies strive for good indoor air quality (IAQ). This entails minimizing pollutants, circulating outdoor air throughout the office, and maintaining comfortable temperatures and humidity levels.
Some of the most common health problems associated with poor IAQ include dizziness, fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, coughing, sneezing and even nausea. Contact lens wearers and people with allergies, respiratory disease, asthma, and suppressed immune systems are particularly vulnerable, according to the EPA. There are several simple actions you can take in your office to ensure your workforce is breathing high-quality air, and are thus being more productive and missing less work.
Many types of adhesives, paints and varnishes contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These liquids and gases are found in aerosol sprays, air fresheners and in clothes that have been dry-cleaned. But the most common source of workplace VOCs is office furnishings. Similar to what some call "new car scent," you can easily identify high VOC furniture by the strong chemical smell coming from it.
The primary reason people buy used office furniture, particularly office chairs and desks, is the price savings. The overlooked advantage of used furniture is that much of the VOCs have already been released. There is also new office furniture available that is specifically manufactured as low VOC. Choose your office furniture wisely to minimize this health risk. You should also avoid using air fresheners.
Those with expensive laptop computers and other mobile devices always have microfiber clothes available to clean screens without scratching or damaging them. Microfiber cloths should also be used around the office to clean all other surfaces. These cloths are made from synthetic fibers that produce no lint and are designed to pick up dust and debris better than traditional rags and towels.
Microfiber cloths should also be used in bathrooms, break areas and kitchens. Offices with laminate and hardwood flooring are likely already using microfiber mops to preserve finishes. Those who really want to go the extra mile can also use organic cleaning products with active ingredients such as vinegar and lemon, versus the chemicals use in traditional products.
These handy little devices are common in hospitals and other medical facilities, and should be just as prevalent in office settings. The internal fans in air purifiers pull air through a series of filters to remove toxins. The air is then recirculated back into the room. High-quality air purifiers remove upwards of 99% of airborne bacteria, while stopping the spread of germs and helping those with seasonal allergies.
A few final steps for clean air in the office: change HVAC filters regularly, keep windows open, and inspect the office for moisture to prevent mold and mildew.