News You Need To Know: ASHRAE’s New Indoor Air Quality Standards

We at the Goodway Just Venting blog want to keep you “in the know” about all the developments in the industry, especially when there are new regulations that could affect your facility’s operations.

iStock 000019219537Small 300x199 photo (sick building syndrome indoor air quality 2 facility management facility maintenance 2 )In late October, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), announced its newly published 2013 version of indoor air quality standards. As most in the industry know, ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is recognized as an international society dedicated to indoor environment control technology in the HVAC industry.


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Could Your School Have a Mold Problem?

In August, officials at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School closed four areas of the building due to a mold infestation.

iStock 000006261763Small 150x150 photo (specialty vacuums sick building syndrome indoor air quality 2 )Excessive rain over the summer caused mold problems at the school, and testing confirmed that four areas of the building contained low levels of mold spores.

In order to protect the students and employees at the school (and to ease the concerns of parents), a crew was called in to clean the areas. School officials determined those rooms would not be re-opened until further testing indicated the areas were safe.


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HEPA Filters: Why They Matter

The fact is: HEPA filters matter. HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters are used for a number of reasons including to control allergens and microbes in hospitals and laboratories, in sensitive manufacturing facilities and in facilities that need to be protected from agents of bioterrorism.

iStock 000020446468Small 150x150 photo (sick building syndrome industrial cleaning indoor air quality 2 hepa vacuums )For a filter to carry the name “HEPA” it must meet certain guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Energy. The most basic guideline for a filter to qualify as a HEPA filter is that it must remove 99.97% of all contaminants from the air that are at least .3 microns in diameter.

A micron is 1 millionth of a meter. To give you an idea just how small a micron is, consider that a human hair is about 100 microns wide. A tobacco smoke particle is usually between .01 to 1 micron, and most bacteria particles fall in the .35 to 10 micron range.


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IAQ: Asthma in Schools

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder affecting as many as 24.6 million Americans – approximately 7.1 million of those individuals are children, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

iStock 000014421351Small1 300x199 photo (sick building syndrome indoor air quality 2 )And the EPA estimates that on average one out of every 10 children of school age has asthma. That’s because certain conditions in a school building – conditions that aren’t controlled – can worsen the symptoms of those suffering from asthma.

Not only do these conditions exacerbate the health problems of children with asthma, but they can also negatively affect a child’s performance in the classroom.

The EPA claims asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism. In fact, asthma causes students to miss 10.5 million school days every year.

Students can function better, feel more alert, experience less symptoms related to asthma, and miss fewer school days, if their environments are healthy.

There is no known cure for asthma, but the EPA explains it is best controlled with medical treatment and by minimizing environmental triggers, including those found within schools.

The asthma triggers most often found in school buildings, according to the EPA, include:

  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Pests
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Animal Dander

To alleviate these asthma triggers, the EPA recommends:

  • Enforcing a no-smoking policy in all schools
  • Implementing a pest management program
  • Dusting and vacuuming school surfaces regularly to reduce exposure to dust mites
  • Keeping animals out of school or at least away from students with asthma
  • Remediating mold

For more about mold clean-up and control read our recent post, Post-Hurricane Sandy: Mold Control for HVAC and Facilities.

Goodway offers several products that can effectively clean up mold infestation and prevent further mold growth. Our products are not only just appropriate for use on HVAC systems, but they can also be used on non-porous surfaces like floors and walls.

The EPA provides a resource on its website to use as guide when instituting a plan to control the indoor pollutants in schools that affect asthma sufferers.

The American Lung Association’s “Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative” is another resource school administrators and other community leaders can use to address asthma management. It offers tools to help communities and schools work together to implement extensive asthma management programs.

The Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative offers an approach that follows the CDC’s Coordinated School Health model by providing resources to schools, districts, and local governments to help them improve school health programs.

Next Steps:


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Hurricane Sandy and IAQ Series: Why IAQ Will be a Huge Concern in NY and NJ this Spring and Summer

This week we continue our Hurricane Sandy and indoor air quality (IAQ) series as we discuss why IAQ will be a huge concern in New York and New Jersey this spring and summer. In our next post, we’ll share our tips for ways to prepare for extreme conditions.

iStock 000004248897Small 150x150 photo (sick building syndrome commercial hvac maintenance and efficiency facility management disaster recovery )As we end the series, we’ll offer our infographic about IAQ and Hurricane Sandy.

In our post Hurricane Sandy and IAQ Series: Top Hurricane Sandy Effects on IAQ this Spring, we talked about how the colder weather hitting the areas affected by the hurricane halted some of the IAQ problems people were experiencing.


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Hurricane Sandy and IAQ Series: Top Hurricane Sandy Effects on IAQ this Spring

This week starts our Hurricane Sandy and indoor air quality (IAQ) series. We’ll start with the top IAQ concerns relevant to Hurricane Sandy as spring hits.

iStock 000021560797Small 150x150 photo (sick building syndrome indoor air quality 2 )Then in the next few weeks we’ll discuss why IAQ will be a huge concern in New York and New Jersey this spring and summer. We’ll also share our tips for ways to prepare for extreme conditions.

As we end the series, we’ll offer our infographic about IAQ and Hurricane Sandy.

Winter conditions have seemed to stop some of the ill effects of Hurricane Sandy, as renovations halt and colder weather inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi. But spring will likely bring a regrowth of problems attributable to Hurricane Sandy, as warmer weather arrives and renovations resume.

Mold growth will again be a problem this spring in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The roofs and siding in homes that have suffered damage from strong winds may leak. Most likely, homeowners won’t discover the leaks until the spring rains arrive, although it’s likely that problems already exist. That’s because moisture damage and mold growth is probably already growing, undetected, in areas such as attics or inside wall cavities.

Mold growth can cause allergies and trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. One type of mold known as aspergillus can cause an infection called aspergillosis, according to the environmental consulting firm Clark Sief Clark.

CNN reports that some strains of aspergillus can cause serious illnesses when the spores are “inhaled by people with a weakened immune system, underlying lung disease or asthma.” Milder cases may result in allergic reactions, while more serious cases include lung infections.

The most serious form of the disease, invasive aspergillosis, results when the infection spreads to blood vessels. Read our post Post-Hurricane Sandy Series: Mold and Mildew Management for more about how to address and stop mold growth.

Asbestos and lead exposure will be the other top IAQ concerns as renovations begin on homes and businesses damaged by the hurricane. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that “many homes, particularly older homes, may contain asbestos, a known carcinogen.”

Both homes and commercial buildings built before 1975 may contain large amounts of asbestos, but so may buildings built after 1975, says the EPA. Some types of materials that can contain asbestos include pipes, insulation, patching and joint compounds, roofing and siding shingles, resilient floor tiles and vinyl sheet flooring.

Buildings built before 1987 may contain lead-based paint; it was banned for use in paint after that time. Any clean up or demolition can aerosolize asbestos or lead, according to Clark Sief Clark. Inhaling dust contaminated with asbestos or lead can cause adverse health effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns asbestos exposure may increase the risk of “lung cancer, mesothelioma, and nonmalignant lung and pleural disorders.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explains lead exposure can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue and headaches. But more serious cases due to long-term exposure may severely damage the “blood-forming, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems.”

The EPA recommends that homeowners cease any renovations if they believe their buildings might contain asbestos or lead and contact state or local public health authorities for assistance. Additionally, when dealing with asbestos or lead, it’s important not to undertake renovations until you understand any federal, state or city laws and regulations that apply to their removal, stresses Clark Sief Clark.

The EPA provides some fact sheets to address some of the concerns you might face when you’re cleaning up and/or renovating your property due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Next Steps:


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Top Ways to Diagnose Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Problems

diagnose building 150x150 photo (sick building syndrome indoor air quality 2 hvac maintenance planning commercial hvac maintenance and efficiency )Despite national attention on poor indoor air quality (IAQ), it’s still a problem affecting facilities and its occupants. Building owners who want to successfully combat poor indoor air quality, must ensure that their building managers and hired contractors understand IAQ and know how to address any problems that arise.

The Indoor Air Quality Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM) is the EPA’s guidance tool for building professionals. It teaches you how to improve air quality and how to conduct an indoor air quality inspection. I-BEAM provides a set of forms to aid in diagnosing and solving air quality issues.


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Mold-related Violations Increase as Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Becomes Hot Topic

moldpic2 150x150 photo (sick building syndrome preventative maintenance commercial hvac maintenance and efficiency )Mold and its effect on indoor air quality (IAQ) is making headlines.

For example, parents in Brooklyn, New York are upset that their children are getting sick because of a purported mold outbreak in one of the borough’s schools. A recent test revealed the presence of black mold in at least seven classrooms.

To make matters worse, the building is currently under construction and the windows are sealed off, which means they can’t be opened for additional ventilation. The mold outbreak is reportedly caused by water leaks and the construction is expected to fix the problem.


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Top Six Reasons Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a Hot Topic

indoor air quality IAQ chinese drywall 300x185 photo (sick building syndrome commercial hvac maintenance and efficiency )Take a breath. Smell anything? Probably not anything unusual, but the air you’re breathing inside your home or office may not be of the quality you expect. New challenges in indoor air quality (IAQ) that stem from natural disasters, technological advances and even building materials and design are occurring in the HVAC space.

In this post, we explore six reasons indoor air quality is a hot topic.

1) Recent Natural Disasters

According to a report in Environmental Health Perspectives, riding out the storm and the recovery period are the times when IAQ is endangered. Hurricanes like Katrina and floods like the Mississippi River flood of 2011 can cause mold in flooded basements and attics. And while generators can provide power in emergencies, they can also impact IAQ if not used properly, says John Spengler, an atmospheric scientist at Harvard. He chaired the committee that wrote a report on the effects of climate change on IAQ commissioned by the EPA in 2011.

Spengler says that when people use generators without proper ventilation, they can end up in the ER or even die from the carbon monoxide exposure. He also says that “weatherizing materials and techniques may be commercialized faster than their health implications can be assessed.”

2) Recent Man-Made Disasters

Going with what Spengler said about commercialization moving faster than health research, IAQ can be harmed by unstudied materials such as Chinese drywall. We found problems with HVAC coil corrosion when builders were importing dry wall from China, post-Hurricane Katrina. This corrosion compromised air quality and caused everything from the smell of rotten eggs to ruined air conditioning units. Read our blog post on the Chinese drywall disaster and watch the video below to see how particles and chemicals can affect the air we breathe indoors.

3) 90% of Our Time is Spent Indoors

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend almost all of their time indoors. And the agency reports that a “growing body of scientific evidence indicates that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.”


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Duct Cleaners = Occupant Health and Money Saved

Air ducts 300x260 photo (sick building syndrome commercial hvac maintenance and efficiency hvac deferred maintenance )Allow us, dear readers, to borrow a little from William Shakespeare.  “To clean or not to clean, (your ducts) that is the question.”  Okay, Bill didn’t include the “your ducts” thing, but otherwise, the conundrum is the same – is it really important to clean your air ducts? We here at Just Venting are very attached to duct cleaners so…

The answer is a resounding YES!

The reasons are many and diverse, but they ultimately fall into two general areas: health reasons and financial reasons.


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