Poor Indoor Air Quality in my Office

If you need assistance with poor indoor air quality in your office as discussed in this article call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email us at info@atlenv.com for details and a free estimate.

 

Written by Henry P. Shotwell, Ph.D., CIH, Vice-President and  Robert E. Sheriff, MS, CIH, CSP, President

November 16, 2018

It’s a common story. Monday morning sees employees arriving at their offices to start work. By mid-morning, some people are complaining of stuffy air, headaches, runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, dry skin or fatigue. When the office workers leave to go home at the end of the day, they start to feel better and are fine until they return to work the next day.

This is a classic description of an indoor air quality issue known as Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). It’s important to keep in mind that these complaints are not specific. They can have several causes including exposure to causative agents outside the building, acute sensitivity and job stress, among others. Nonetheless, SBS began showing up after the 1973 oil embargo and energy conservation measures included reducing the amount of outdoor air used for dilution ventilation. Inadequate ventilation is widely regarded as a leading cause of SBS.

Insufficient ventilation allows exhaled carbon dioxide from office workers and other agents to build up over time. This is why many of the complaints start in mid- to late morning, and again, in late afternoon. When employees typically leave the office for lunch, the ventilation system has a chance to lower the carbon dioxide level and other agents. Other contributors to SBS include volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that are released from carpeting, adhesives, copy machines, cleaning agents and upholstery. Sometimes, the ventilation system may entrain truck and automobile exhausts. Molds, bacteria and viruses can grow in stagnant water found in ducts, drain pans and humidifiers. Exposure to these agents can lead to a variety of illnesses, including Legionnaire’s Disease. During the winter or dry months, the problem can be aggravated by low humidity.  Molds growing on roof, leeks, water on ceiling tiles can leave a disturbing musty odor or even cause some respirator problems among building occupants.

What’s the solution? The first thing to do is examine the building for evidence of known causes of SBS: Are the drip pans in the air handlers full of water? Are there things growing in them? Is there evidence of water intrusions from either outside (roof leaks, leaking window casements) or inside (condensate on air ducts or chilled water pipes, leaking pipes)? Is there a layer of dust on desks and other horizontal surfaces in the morning? Has there been recent renovation work in the building? Has carpet been replaced? What kinds of cleaning agents are used by the janitorial staff?

Indoor air quality is a combination of many factors that requires trained and experienced investigators to unravel and propose workable solutions.  We can assist in identifying the problems and suggest solutions call us at 1-800-344-4414 or email info@atlenv.com.

Our primary service areas for Indoor Air Quality Services are: NJ, NY, NYC, PA, CT, DE, (Boston) MA, RI, Wash DC, WI, MD, MI, (Chicago) IL, VA, IN, (Atlanta) GA, AL, NC, SC, TN, (Dallas, Ft Worth) TX, OK, DC, AR, we can service most other areas of the U.S. but with some added travel charges.