There are many different types of contaminants that can be found in the air in your commercial building, and the health effects associated with these contaminants range from bronchitis to allergic reactions to respiratory infections to even some forms of cancer.
If you own or manage a commercial building, it is very important that you monitor and control the air quality of your property to keep you, your employees, and your customers safe.
Types of air pollutants
There are three major categories of pollutants that could be affecting the indoor air quality (IAQ) of your commercial building.
- biological pollutants
- chemical pollutants
- combustion pollutants
Unfortunately, all three of these types of pollutants have to be tested for separately and cannot be identified with a single test.
This is why it is important to have in mind which type of pollutant is the most likely to be present in your building before you proceed with testing your indoor air. IAQ testing can be expensive, so if you can identify the problem with a single test, that would be ideal.
1. Biological pollutants
Biological pollutants include contaminants like mold, dust mites, pollen, and any other type of contaminant that is either living or related to another living organism. Biological pollutants can cause allergic reactions like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
Diseases can also be caused by microorganisms and toxins that are spreading throughout indoor environments. Signs that you may be exposed to biological pollutants include sneezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
Dust mites are microscopic insect-like pests that feed on the dead human skin cells that can be found within the dust in your commercial building. Up to hundreds of thousands of them can infest a single piece of furniture.
No matter how clean your building is, dust mites are always present. It is impossible to get rid of them entirely. High concentrations of dust mites generate biological pollutants that can lead to asthma and allergic reactions in humans.
Dust mites are not considered parasites, as they do not bite, sting, or burrow into human skin. It is their waste and body fragments that act as biological pollutants.
Mold growth can be a serious problem if large quantities are allowed to populate your building. Mold grows both indoors and outdoors and can make its way into your building via doors, windows, and air vents.
Excessive mold growth can cause health concerns for those who are generally considered to be in good health, and it can be especially damaging to those who already have preexisting health conditions.
There are many different types of mold, and health concerns associated with mold exposure include asthma attacks, eye and skin irritations, and allergic reactions. If you notice mold growing in your building, there is likely more that you are unaware of.
With exception to the wintertime, trees, plants, and flowers release pollen and spores that can make their way into your property by hitching a ride on people and animals.
High levels of pollen can cause numerous health issues, namely allergic reactions like allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever). Common symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes, and an itchy throat.
2. Chemical pollutants
Chemical pollutants are any type of chemical that should not be present in a particular environment. Common types of chemical pollutants include lead, radon, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like formaldehyde.
Indoor air pollution that is caused by unwelcome chemicals or abnormally high levels of a particular chemical can be very dangerous and harmful to human health.
Lead was commonly used as a material for pipes and household appliances for thousands of years before the negative health effects associated with it were discovered in the late 19th century.
These health effects include abdominal pain, constipation, exhaustion, headaches, short-term memory loss, loss of appetite, pain or tingling in the hands and feet, anemia, kidney and brain damage, and, in some cases, even death. Lead poisoning is no joke.
When lead is absorbed into our bodies, either through breathing it in or swallowing it, it is stored in our blood, bones, and tissue. This can cause serious issues for a person over the course of his or her lifetime.
Radon was discovered in 1900 by German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn. It is a radioactive, colorless gas that is formed in soil. It is the world’s second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.
Radon can enter your commercial building through cracks and openings in floors and walls that are in contact with the ground. If you have high radon levels in your building, this can be very dangerous.
The radioactive particulate matter that is emitted from radon can become trapped in your lungs and cause serious tissue damage. This can lead to lung cancer. However, it should be noted that not everyone who is exposed to radon will develop lung cancer.
Volatile organic compounds
VOCs are organic compounds that can easily become vapors or gases. By definition, VOCs must contain some level of carbon (hence the word “organic”).
VOCs can be emitted by a wide variety of chemical products that are commonly found in homes or commercial buildings. These include the following.
- air fresheners
- cleaning supplies
- moth repellant
- office equipment
- paints and lacquers
- varnishes and waxes
VOCs can cause numerous health concerns, including eye, nose, and throat irritations, headaches, nausea, damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system, and even some forms of cancer.
Formaldehyde is one of the most common and dangerous varieties of VOCs. It is commonly found in building materials, glue, insulation, paint, and paper products.
3. Combustion pollutants
Combustion pollutants are gases and particulate matter that come from burning materials. Common sources of combustion pollutants include improperly-vented fuel-burning appliances like space heaters, wooden stoves, gas stoves, water heaters, dryers, and fireplaces.
Common combustion pollutants include carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.
Carbon monoxide (more commonly referred to as natural gas) is a colorless, odorless gas that is used in the majority of homes as an energy source.
It is dangerous to breathe in large quantities of carbon monoxide, as it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the brain, heart, and other vital organs of oxygen as well. Physical symptoms of carbon monoxide include the following.
- tightness in the chest
Mercaptan, a harmless gas that has an odor that is reminiscent of rotten eggs, is added to carbon monoxide to make it easier to detect. If you notice hissing sounds, dead plants, or a rotten-egg-like smell in or around your building, you may be suffering from a gas leak.
Recommended Read 4 Signs of a Gas Leak and How Property Managers Should Handle It
Nitrogen dioxide is a toxic gas that is a highly reactive oxidant and corrosive. Common indoor sources of nitrogen dioxide include unvented (or poorly vented) gas-burning appliances, tobacco smoke, and kerosene heaters.
Health effects of nitrogen dioxide exposure include the following.
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
- pulmonary edema
- respiratory infections
- decreased lung function
How you can improve your indoor air quality
There are four significant ways that you can improve your indoor air quality and prevent the build-up of air pollutants in your commercial building.
- ensure that your building has adequate ventilation
- control and monitor possible sources of pollution
- change filters on a regular basis
- adjust humidity levels accordingly
Ensure that your building has adequate ventilation
Increasing the amount of fresh air that is present in your building is one of the most effective ways to reduce indoor pollutants. Ensure that your ventilation system is not blocked or closed off and (if the weather permits) open doors and windows to promote air circulation.
Control and monitor possible sources of pollution
One of the best ways to prevent the build-up of contaminants is to either reduce or eliminate possible sources. Make sure to dust on a regular basis to prevent dust mites infestations, keep products that emit VOCs in a safe and isolated location, and prohibit smoking indoors.
Change filters on a regular basis
Air conditioners, heaters, and boilers contain filters that trap dust and other particulate matter, preventing them from spreading throughout your home. Make sure to change these filters on a consistent basis, as clogged air filters can inhibit airflow.
Adjust humidity levels accordingly
It is important to keep the humidity levels in your commercial building between 30 and 50%. Both high and low humidity levels can lead to numerous health problems. High humidity in particular can help create a suitable environment for mold growth.
Monitor and control your indoor air quality with help from Design Mechanical!
Design Mechanical is a trusted air purification service provider for commercial buildings. We use continuous ambient air quality monitoring systems with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove unhealthy particles and microbes from your building’s air.
With our help, you can make sure that the air you, your employees, and your visitors are breathing is healthy, safe, and free from pollutants and contaminants.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (913) 281-7200 if you have any questions or require any of our services!