This Web exclusive comes from Stephen Ashkin, president of The Ashkin Group. His firm specializes in greening the cleaning process.
Why Be Concerned About IAQ?
It has become well documented that indoor air contaminants can cause physiological and physical changes in humans including nose, throat and skin irritation, allergic reactions; respiratory problems such as asthma; and even infections.
Poor IAQ also has been shown to damage building materials, furnishings, and equipment. For example, walls, furnishings, and paintings can become coated with residue fumes from cars and trucks, tobacco smoke, fireplaces, and cooking fumes and odors–even candles over time. Some contaminants can actually change the electrical nature of components in electronic equipment.
Below are some steps facility service providers as well as building owners, engineers, managers, and occupants can take to protect the air they breath and the indoor environment.
• Appoint a team to lead an IAQ program.
• Educate all major stakeholders on the need for improved IAQ, and involve them in programs to protect IAQ; include facility managers, staff, and occupants in the process.
• Teach building occupants what they can do to protect IAQ and encourage their cooperation.
• Evaluate your building’s current IAQ status, pinpointing problem areas, evaluating IAQ complaints, and noting facility operations that affect or can harm IAQ.
• Switch to green—environmentally preferable cleaning products—that release fewer volatile organic compounds into the air.
• Implement green cleaning systems including the use of other green cleaning products and equipment beyond just chemicals, such as high performing matting, high filtration vacuum cleaners, and other tools
• Encourage building occupants to use environmentally preferable cleaning products and procedures when they care for their own desks and work stations.
• Keep the building dry to prevent the build-up of mold, mildew, and fungi.
• Remove barriers that restrict heating, ventilation, and air-condition (HVAC) air flow in or out of the building.
• Monitor HVAC systems and change filters regularly.
• When necessary, work with consultants to determine what steps you can take to rectify and/or prevent IAQ problems and incorporate these steps to improve IAQ.
• Develop a long-term IAQ monitoring program.
• Keep detailed records of when or how IAQ problems develop over the course of time and what steps are taken to address the issues.
• Evaluate the entire IAQ program on a regular basis, and make changes if warranted.