What is Indoor Air Quality? How Can You Improve It?

Facility Cleaning

Whether you operate a food processing plant, industry facility, a school or an office building, maintaining a high level of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), also known as “indoor environmental quality”, is important to occupational health. “What is indoor air quality?” is a question that you should be asking concerning your building conditions, if you’re unsure about air quality in your workplace.

What is IAQ?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines indoor air quality as the air quality within and around buildings and structures, as it relates to health and comfort of building occupants. When facility managers understand and control common indoor air pollutants, they can reduce the risk of indoor health concerns caused by poor air quality.

Though other contaminants exist, the EPA identifies the top four indoor air pollutants as:

  • Excess moisture
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Radon

Building operations managers can maintain acceptable indoor air quality by controlling indoor air contaminants through cleaning efforts and technology.

Even if you don’t have direct indoor pollution sources, every facility can experience a buildup of dust, pollen, mold, and harmful VOCs that degrade IAQ. The best way to keep air quality high is to control indoor pollutant levels in buildings.

Why is IAQ Important?

Building-related illnesses or “sick building syndrome,” is a serious issue to consider when planning maintenance of your building. Indoor air pollution can present significant and harmful health effects that increase absenteeism, reduce performance, and lower productivity. Repeated exposures to damp indoor spaces can severely impact a person’s health.  Short- and long-term health effects of poor IAQ can include headaches, fatigue, respiratory problems including impaired lung function, heart disease, cancer and even indoor air pollution deaths.

Poor IAQ also can arise from poor ventilation rates and issues with mixing in outside air with indoor air, fluctuating indoor air temperatures and humidity, recent building construction, mold in damp areas, off-gassing of cleaning chemicals, and other airborne chemicals.

Six Methods That Can Improve IAQ

Dust collection devices, proper cleaning and maintenance of HVAC systems, air purifying systems, HEPA vacuums and more can help facility managers take a positive step toward improving IAQ.

  1. Install a dust collector. It makes sense to install an industrial dust collector when the work companies do generates dust from dangerous airborne pollutants. These units use efficient filtration to capture dust and remove it from the air.
  2. Clean ducts. Indoor air is recycled through HVAC systems through ducts. As this occurs, contaminants can adhere to duct interiors and spread germs, dust, mold and allergens throughout a facility as the system operates. Regular cleaning and decontamination of duct work with specialized tools can dislodge stuck dirt and debris. An industrial duct cleaning system or vacuum with HEPA filters can loosen and remove additional buildup. Using a chemical agent or disinfectant can clean up ducts when there is evidence of microbial growth.
  3. Clean evaporator and condenser coils. Evaporator and condenser coils also can collect dirt, mold and other contaminants which can spread throughout the facility as the HVAC system operates. Regularly cleaning coils reduces the spread of contaminants. Because evaporator and condenser coils can be located inside ceilings, outside, on rooftops and more, it’s essential to use equipment designed for this work.
  4. Keep cooling towers clean. Cooling towers are another source for infectious bacteria that can cause indoor air problems. It is important to inspect cooling towers for scale and slime monthly and to clean tower basin surfaces to remove debris and contaminants. Treat water in cooling towers with descaling and disinfectant solutions to manage the risk of legionella and other bacterial growth and drain the system at least once a year for thorough cleaning and disinfection before turning it back on.
  5. Install high quality air filtration systems. Air purification systems can remove pollutants from the air. Quality air filters for HVAC systems can keep dirt out of vents and ducts and purify the air facility wide.
  6. Use a HEPA filter vacuum. HEPA-filter vacuums trap and remove fine particles from the air prior to exhausting it into the atmosphere. These devices improve indoor air quality by capturing harmful particles. Many industrial vacuums include a multi-step filtering process that removes progressively smaller and smaller particles, with the final step being HEPA filtration that removes 99.97% of particles down to 0.03 microns, or about 10x smaller than the thickness of human hair.

Next Steps

Improving and maintaining a facility’s IAQ is a crucial step in preserving the health and productivity of employees. Goodway has a wide range of products designed to keep industrial and processing facilities clean and IAQ high. Goodway IAQ Experts can work with building operations, plant and facility managers to design a cleaning program for optimum IAQ.

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