Improving Indoor Air Quality
Do you know that homes, businesses, schools, restaurants, hospitals, and any other structure can have air pollution? Keeping the air we breathe clean is an enormous responsibility. Some of the primary creators of poor air quality are building supplies, office furniture, cleaning agents, and paint. Tracking these irritants requires companies to sample air volumes with various testing mechanisms because the chemicals are so different. Phenols, formaldehyde, and benzene are major offenders. Working in oil refineries or fuel plants can put you at risk for overexposure to benzene because it is one of the most widely available chemicals. Air purifiers are one of the best ways to improve air quality in any facility or home.
What are volatile organic compounds?
Volatile organic compounds are chemicals that emit carbon or can evaporate into the air. These chemicals are widely found in cleaning and building supplies. Air fresheners and paint strippers are common offenders in homes. The Environmental Protection Agency says that indoor hazards from VOC's are more concerning because they regulate the outdoor air, but individuals must make the best choice for products in buildings. Inside concentrations can reach ten times that of outdoor air quality levels. Builders share a part of the responsibility as well when erecting homes with products that contain a high amount of volatile organic compounds.
Collecting air samples for VOC testing
Testing for most chemicals like moth repellents, pesticides, and craft items is a fairly simple collection process that takes great skill to test in a laboratory. The National Institute of Health says that inspectors can use passive and low-circulation methods with sorbent tubes which are stainless steel containers with an absorbent material that collect air as it flows through the tube. These samplers are easy to place on surfaces and leave until the sampling is complete. Then, test kits make a trip to the lab for analysis, and a report goes to the testing agent when complete.
Health problems from coming in contact with chemicals containing VOC's
- Trouble breathing
- Throat irritation
When chemicals pollute indoor air the most
The EPA mentions that some household activities can increase the amount of VOC's in the home or garage as much as 1,000 percent that of levels found in the air outside the structure. Some of these chemicals include paint strippers making it extremely important to use proper ventilation when performing activities that involve solvents with high off-gassing capabilities. A fan with adequate circulation and a good flow of air from inside to outside is a good method of getting rid of harmful chemicals whether in a residence or a factory. Ventilation is an excellent way of getting into cleaner air, but it does not eliminate the effects of the chemical.
Purifying the air
To reduce the effects of VOC's many businesses install air purifiers. These units take in air with pollution, filter it through HEPA filters and charcoal to collect small particles. The clean air exits the filter and recirculates throughout the building. Many apartment complex owners and private landlords are using these purification units in residences because they eliminate harmful contaminants at the source.
Air quality testing and schools
The National Institute of Health reports that recent VOC studies in newer school buildings across the United States show a low concentration of the chemicals in air quality tests, but they note that these numbers can go lower with the use of low-VOC compounds in paint and cleaning supplies. Adding filtration units and using a preventative maintenance approach to testing are other ways that educational centers can protect children and stay in regulation with current or future air quality requirements.
Tips to improve air quality in any building or home
Whether you own a home or a business, you want to know that the air you breathe is safe and refreshing. Chemicals leach out of building materials, all-purpose cleansers, and solvents. Whether we get exposure when relaxing, learning or working makes little difference unless you work outside. All buildings have some level of air pollution whether it is from chemicals, mold, pet dander, or dirt. How well you purify the air depends on follow-up tests once you use some of the above tips. Choosing an expert that has the qualifications and equipment to perform VOC testing will help you find the best ways to reduce air pollution.
- Read every part of labels on any product
- Store fuel containers outside
- Use extra ventilation when using a chemical with VOC's
- Opt for green products when possible
- Hire an expert for air quality testing at least once a year
- Use sealants on stains
- Reduce product storage by not overbuying chemicals like household cleansers and wood conditioners
- Never mix products
- Keep all chemicals away from pets and children
- Install air purifiers