Indoor air quality at workplaces is a matter of serious concern these days and for a good reason. Most of the workplaces are located in city centres and are fitted with air conditioners through-out the building. There is limited fresh air circulation and that leads to various illness like nose and throat irritation, congestion, asthma, respiratory diseases, headache, lethargy, mild depression, sneezing, cough and wheezing, memory lapse etc. and with extended duration these become fatalities.
The sources of air pollution in an office space are of a wide range from air conditioners to lingering smell. Let’s take a look at few sources which are causing you severe hazards at your workplace.
What are the sources of
indoor air pollution in work places?
Air Conditioners: Circulating the stale air continuously
Every office these days have centralised air conditioners that circulate the cool air around the office and provide relief from the outside heat. However, air conditioners circulate the same foul air through-out the office without purifying them. If the air conditioning ducts are not cleaned frequently then they lead to visible mould growth or dust build up and put the employees in the risk of suffering from bacterial infections and respiratory diseases. Also, few offices with centralised air conditioning system do not circulate the air quite frequently through the ducts as it would raise a bill on the power consumption, which is the main cause behind the air being continuously stale.
Overcrowded Office Space: With too many people comes high amount of CO2
It is highly important that we avoid office spaces that have too many people crowding the office. The natural cycle of breathing of a human being involves inhaling oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide and with too many people in a crowded office, the concentration of carbon dioxide and increases and deteriorates the air quality in the office. The employees might experience effects on their health where CO2 levels are found to be elevated, but the visible or felt symptoms are usually due to several other pollutants found in the air. At high levels, carbon dioxide itself can cause dizziness, nausea, headache etc.
Lingering Smell: Don’t food smell ruin your mood
Most of the offices allow their employees to eat their food in the office space itself. This creates a huge amount of lingering smell which may cause irritation as some smell could act as an allergen for certain people. Apart from food smell, if the office space is placed near an open sewage then the smell of the drain tends to get into the office and finally reducing the productivity of the employees.
Offices that house a huge cafeteria invite a lot of people to come and have their food there but the smell from the kitchen, if not contained well, could act as a serious setback for people who have problem with a particular food smell.
Carpets: Affecting you with their chemically infused smell
A lot of carpets, especially the new ones emit a famous scent, which is basically release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde, acetone etc. Exposure to these chemicals on a daily basis can lead to headaches, throat and eye irritation, allergies and drowsiness. The new ones also have naphthalene, a moth proofing chemical which could produce toxic reactions in employees who are exposed it on a daily basis. Meanwhile, old carpets produce dust mites and their droppings can create severe allergic reactions. Amongst all the offenders, the worst ones are the synthetic carpets that consist of nylon and olefin fibres. Exposure to all of these toxins at a significant level can lower your IQ and lead to diseases related to liver, kidneys and blood.
Office cleaners: Conventional cleaners can add to indoor air pollution
Keeping your office clean is a must to maintain good air quality but it can backfire if you use the conventional cleaning products that consist of harmful chemicals. The products that say “green” or even “organic” too contain certain ingredients that are injurious to health. The natural fragrance that these products give out can react with the air to produce dangerous pollutant indoors.
However, conventional cleaning products are still the worst choice for cleaning your office space. Most of these products consist of alcohol, chlorine, ammonia and petrol based solvents. These chemicals can cause irritation in the eyes or the throat and cause headaches.
Few other cleaning products release VOCs, which are dangerous chemicals and they contribute to allergies, asthma and other respiratory diseases. Products that usually contain VOCs are aerosol sprays, rug and upholstery cleaners, chlorine bleach, oven cleaners and floor polishes.
Contagiousness: Don’t let the flu spread to all in the office
While people work at the office, they might be suffering from the flu, cough, cold, viral etc. In an enclosed office space with no air filtration, the bacteria tends to travel across and harm others. The transfer of flu or any other contagious disease is a major setback in terms of productivity and profit generation as the employees would not be able to work with their full potential.
Ventilation: Circulating fresh air within the office is very important
Any office that does not manage air exchange adequately is prone to high indoor humidity that leads to mould growth. In winters, inadequate ventilation gives rise to both moisture and humidity. Lower ventilation also leads to high concentration of indoor air pollutants arising from other sources. In absence of satisfactory air exchange, the air pollutants may cause drastic health hazards to the occupants. Also, in absence of adequate ventilation, pure air is not circulated inside the office and the concentration of air pollutants keep rising. The outdoor fresh air brings a huge amount of oxygen which in turn decreases the level of bacteria inside the office.
How to ward off indoor air pollution
at office with air purifiers?
Air Purifiers consist of various filters that almost negate the indoor pollutants and return the air quality to safer levels. While there are many air purification filters that are used in air purifiers, there are only some that are very relevant to air purification at office. While it’s good to have several filters, the filters that are must are Activated Carbon Filter, HEPA filter, Photo Catalyst and UV filter. A HEPA filter and Activated Carbon filter does the job of completely removing smoke and harmful gases from the air and reduce indoor air pollution.
Activated Carbon: When carbon is treated with oxygen, it causes numerous tiny pores to open up on the surface of the carbon. These pores are so many in number that one pound of activated carbon provides 60-150 acres of surface area with the objective to trap pollutants. The activated carbon filter works by the principal of adsorption where a gas element bonds with the surface of a solid. The solid material here being the activated carbon, which absorbs airborne pollutants equivalent to 60% of its weight. Once the air borne particles are absorbed by the filter, only the pure air flows out.
HEPA Filter: A HEPA filter is always used in combination with an activated carbon filter to achieve highly efficient air filtration. The result being removal of wide array of air borne pollutants and asthma triggers like dust mites, pollen, mould, pet dander etc. The HEPA filter alone is the most efficient filter for people suffering from allergies and asthma. It removes 99.97% of airborne irritants which are of the size 0.3 microns.
Ultraviolet tube with PCO: The Ultraviolet filters are a new technology used to remove substantial amount of microbes from the air. The filter kills the bacterial pollutants in the air with ultraviolet light that incinerates the bacteria passing through it. This filter focuses on helping people who suffer from asthma, lung diseases and allergies.
Photo Catalyst Filter: The photo catalyst filters contain titanium dioxide as the catalyst that purifies the air with the help of UV light. When the UV light shines upon the titanium dioxide electrons, the electrons start interacting with water molecules and form hydroxyl radicals. The hydroxyl radicals then attack the larger organic pollutant molecules and turn them into harmless substances like water.
Electro Static Precipitator: The ESP filter helps in removing fine particles like dust and smoke. It works by forcing the dirty gas pass through two electrodes where the first electrode is charged to a negative voltage and the second electrode is charged to a positive voltage. As the dust particles move through the first electrode, they pick up a negative charge and then they move towards the positive charged electrode. Since unlike charges attract each other, the dust and soot particles stick to the positive electrode.