Recently, one of our clients, facility manager of a company that manages many downtown high-rise office towers, said to me, that since the onset of COVID, in order to maintain extremely good ventilation and air quality in their buildings, their HVAC budget has gone up significantly. He and his company care a lot about their tenants and are doing everything in their power to ensure a clean and safe environment.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ranked indoor air pollution among the top 5 environmental dangers. Having bad indoor air quality inside your office space really can affect a person’s health, comfort, and ability to work. Several naturally occurring pollutants — including mold, bacteria, dust, pollen, and animal dander — can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Since most employees spend a big part of their lives in their offices, repeated exposure to pollutants in the workplace can take a serious toll on health.
Several health conditions may arise from long-term exposure to poor air quality, including, allergy symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and runny nose, fatigue, sore throat, dizziness, headache. While these health effects may be short-term and are, typically, easy to treat, they are nonetheless unpleasant for those affected. Additionally, for those with pre-existing allergies, asthma, or lowered immune systems, symptoms may be more severe and problematic. If exposure to pollutants and poor indoor quality persists for long enough, more serious effects may develop. These effects can include, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease.
Rest assured, most commercial buildings don’t have severe issues. However, according to the EPA, poor indoor air quality can lead to productivity problems and increased absences among employees. It is estimated that all these health consequences cost businesses and the government billions of dollars each year due to medical care and productivity loss.
Here are a few tips, that do not require more HVAC usage, to keep your indoor air quality better.
Ensure your janitorial service providers use HEPA filtration vacuums that are relatively new, well-sealed and in very good working condition.
A HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is a high efficiency particulate air filter, designed to remove 99.97 percent of all particles that are 0.3 microns in size that pass through it. The HEPA standard is set by the U.S. government’s Department of Energy and was developed for use in nuclear facilities in the 1940s. HEPA filters can collect some pollutants, although, they cannot capture everything. For instance, particles smaller than 0.3 microns can escape through a HEPA filter, as can the gaseous molecules of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as some viruses and bacteria (Coronavirus, for example, is about 0.12 microns).
HEPA filters prevent ultrafine pollutants from being recirculated into the air we breathe. Additionally, some HEPA filters are designed to trap odours. While the air filter you use for your HVAC system also collects unwanted particles, such as dust, smoke, lint and more, most filters cannot capture high levels of the 0.3-micron particles a HEPA filter can.
Some argue that vacuums can cause more harm than good, due to the bacteria, dust, and allergens being released back into the air. However, according to assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Viviana Temino, MD, HEPA vacuums are significantly better. Besides, “For a vacuum to do more harm than good, it has to be a really old vacuum cleaner that has never been cleaned. In general, most vacuums do take up more dust, dirt, and allergens than they release.”
HEPA filters are the way to go, she says: “They remove more particles than they release back.”
Less carpet, the better
Having carpet in your business might be necessary for maintaining temperature or appearance, and carpet is not inherently problematic, especially if the business is in an otherwise clean environment; However, there is no doubt that it traps dust and other harmful particles that may clog people’s airways and lungs, and may lead to headaches, lethargy, general sickness or even infections. More and more, employees are calling in sick because they have respiratory issues, and even when they do come in, having headaches or lack of energy is likely to lead to lost production. If you do have carpet, and do not want to replace it with another flooring option, proper carpet cleaning to clear harmful dust will go a long way towards improving the performance of your office.
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, carpets can become a veritable hive of bacteria. Pollen, dust, dead skin cells and even small insects that you absent-mindedly trod underfoot are all in your carpet. The problem is that quantifying the number of germs or bacteria, such that it makes sense to your average Joe, isn’t that easy – but what if we told you that your carpet could be 4 times dirtier than your office toilet seat?
Safe to say, your carpets are probably harbouring a little more bacteria and… things… than you likely realised. However, professional steam cleaning will make all the difference, and in a typical office space, it only needs to be done once or twice a year at most.
The benefits of houseplants cannot be overstated. Houseplants clean the air. Houseplants actually breathe. They take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. While people and animals take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. By bringing plants into your office, you’re creating a symbiotic relationship, filtering the air, creating fresh oxygen, and beautifying your office space.
This brilliant info graphic compiles which plants NASA recommends to help keep your air clean:
Cleaners should use microfiber cloths before using feather dusters
If you’ve ever seen a depiction of a cleaning person in an old cartoon, you’ve probably gotten a good idea of what a feather duster looks like. Traditionally made with feathers from animals ranging from geese to ostriches, feather dusters are big clumps of feathers, which you brush over a dusty surface.
While some feather dusters may attract and trap dust, the vast majority only serve to brush up dust and move it around. This can trigger allergies and may just leave a mess for you to subsequently clean up with a vacuum or mop.
Microfiber is a material made from thousands of teeny filaments, or threads, that are soft to the touch. Microfiber used for cleaning is called split microfiber. When microfibers are split, they are 200 times thinner than a single human hair. These split microfibers become much more absorbent. They can remove large quantities of microbes, including hard-to-kill spores. A microfiber cloth has the same surface area as a cotton cloth four times as large! And it is very absorbent. It can absorb seven times its weight in water!
When you use a microfiber cloth, the tiny little fibers produce a small static electric charge, making them great for attracting, picking up, and trapping dust. Instead of pushing dust around, the grooved, fibrous surface of a microfiber duster collects dust, dirt, and debris like a magnet, allowing you to pick it up and get rid of it all with ease.
Microfiber cloths are strong and sturdy enough to handle heavy duty dusting, but also light enough for delicate household surfaces. Microfiber dusters are endlessly washable and reusable, and they use 95% less water and chemicals than cotton mops and cloths, making them a sustainable, environmentally friendly option. They are also hypoallergenic. They come in many different shapes and sizes, from cloths to extended-reach dusters, to mitts, and so on.
Microfiber for the win!
Clean up all water spills promptly
Water creates a hospitable environment for the growth of micro-organisms such as molds or fungi. Some of these microbes, if they become airborne, can cause health problems. Make sure if there are any water spills in your office building the area is cleaned and dried asap.
Dispose of garbage promptly and properly.
Dispose of garbage in appropriate containers that are emptied daily to prevent odours and biological contamination. The toxic substances in air contaminated by waste include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane. In everyday life, we identify the polluted air especially through bad odours, which are usually caused by decomposing and liquid waste items.
Implementing the 6 strategies above can contribute to cleaner quality air in your office, and as a result, fewer employee sick days and higher production. When looking for the experts in janitorial services to keep your office clean and safe and help achieve these results, contact Picture Perfect Cleaning to know you are in good hands.