Is Your Cleaning Company Making Your Building Sick?

Green Cleaning Practices to Prevent Sick Buildings

In 1970s Americans began to seal their workplaces to conserve fossil fuels and energy resources. Scientific research sponsored by federal agencies has shown that indoor air often contains higher levels of pollutants than outside air and can thus pose serious health threats. As evident, studies in 1990 showed that one in five U.S. schools had poor indoor air quality, and one in four reported unsatisfactory ventilation. Furthermore, research has indicated that air inside buildings can now be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.

Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Defined

Your place of business has poor IEQ if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • High noise Improper temperature and humidity
  • Poor lighting
  • Adverse ergonomic conditions
  • Badly designed work stations
  • Uncomfortable seating
  • Job-related psychosocial stressors that contribute to complaints
  • Indoor air pollution

Why Total Quality Cleaning Systems Cares About IEQ

Most people spend 80-90% of their lives in their homes, offices, schools, daycare centers, and other indoor environments. It is surprising to find out that the indoor environments where most of us spend most of our lives are more contaminated than the smoky, smoggy, and polluted air outside. In fact, this problem is so severe that the World Health Organization has reported 30% of buildings generate excessive IEQ.

So what does this mean to you as a business owner, executive, or employee of a company that has poor IEQ? At a minimum you should care that the building you work in has an IEQ that produces headaches, nasal congestion and drainage, dry eyes, coughing, itching burning eyes, nausea, dry throat, dizziness, fatigue, skin irritation, wheezing, chest tightness, and asthma. What is even more interesting is that IEQ has secondary effects that include high medical costs, low morale, increased absenteeism, and decreased worker productivity.

Building-Related Illness Associated With Cleaning Practices

  • Identifiable, diagnosable disease or illness can be traced to a specific pollutant or source within a building
  • Ranges from allergies to Legionnaire's disease
  • Effects workers and visitors
  • Effects differ based on time spent in building and susceptibility
  • People with heart disease may be affected by lower levels of carbon monoxide exposure
  • Children exposed to smoke have been shown to be at higher risk of respiratory infections
  • Those exposed to nitrogen dioxide have been shown to be at higher risk from respiratory infections
  • Allergic, asthmatic, respiratory disease, contact lens wearers, and immune suppressed do to chemo, radiation, or disease

Sick Building Syndrome

  • Set of symptoms that affect some number of building occupants while they are inside the building, and diminish or disappear when they leave.
  • Headache, itching, burning dry, or watery eyes, dry or irritated throat, nasal or sinus congestion, shortness of breath, coughing and sneezing, dry or irritated skin, dizziness and other neurological symptoms
  • Usually due to the combined effects of multiple pollutants

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

  • Health problems characterized by effects such as dizziness, eye and throat irritation, chest tightness, and nasal congestion that appear whenever they are exposed to certain chemicals
  • People react to trace chemicals to which they have become sensitized
  • In 1987 the National Academy of Sciences estimated that 15% of the U.S. population "have increased allergic sensitivity to chemicals commonly found in household products such as detergents, solvents, pesticides, metals, and rubber, thus placing them at increased risk of disease"
  • Animal studies have indicated that even small amounts of toxic substances can adversely affect hormone balances and neural function, and may inhibit the immune system's ability to fight off disease.
  • Central nervous system (fatigue, headache, dizziness, memory loss, sleep disturbance, inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety, sudden anger, and irritability) Irritational (nasal congestion, itching or irritated eyes, asthma, eczema, and rashes) and Gastrointestinal (nausea, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, gas pain, and bloating)

How Your Office or Workplace Can Improve Your IEQ

The good news is that you have direct control of your IEQ and factors such as Green Cleaning can significantly improve the quality of your environment. For example:

  • Good housekeeping to discourage proliferation of cockroaches and their allergy producing products
  • Control of indoor humidity and other measures to discourage growth of duct mites
  • Proper operation of HVAC Avoid use of gas stoves to warm indoor spaces
  • Care in using and storing paints, pesticides, cleaning agents, and other chemicals
  • Preventive maintenance to protect the integrity of the buildings roof, windows, and exterior walls
  • Preventing the infiltration of moisture that could encourage growth of molds
  • Use of healthy building materials and furnishings
  • Selecting equipment and supplies that do not contribute to VOC and ozone emissions (e.g. computers and copy paper)
  • Eliminate dirt and moisture (e.g. poor drain, where dirt and water gather, spills)
  • Your cleaning company should eliminate degreasers, floor finishers, carpet spotters, air fresheners, restroom deodorizers, dust from burnishing, and polishing compounds that have formaldehyde, benzene, carbon monoxide, or dust.

Removal of the Sources That Can Significantly Effect IEQ

  • Prohibit smoking
  • Relocate contaminant-producing equipment to unoccupied space
  • Clean and remove mold-contaminated carpet
  • Create a way to quickly address spills before they become a problem
  • Schedule contaminant-producing activities for long unoccupied periods
  • Facilitate maintenance by improving access to filters, coils, etc.

Modification of the Sources That Can Significantly Effect IEQ Through Green Cleaning Practices and More

  • Select chemicals that produce fewer less potent contaminants
  • Limit smoking indoors to areas where the air is directly exhausted
  • Relocate contaminant-producing equipment to exhaust-only ventilated space
  • Use high-filtration vacuums that remove more particles while reducing emissions

Control the Sources That Can Significantly Effect IEQ

  • Install and maintain filters in HVAC
  • Improve storage of materials that produce contaminants
  • Schedule inspections to ensure containers are sealed properly
  • Seal the surfaces of building materials that produce VOC such as formaldehyde
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