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Indoor air pollution is a serious problem in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded a study that found indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside. What’s worse, is the EPA said that Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can be up to 100 times worse than outside.
In 2020, the EPA initiated the above referenced study to determine what health effects, if any, people were experiencing due to indoor air pollution. The reason they took on this study in the first place is because Americans spend an average of 90 percent of our lives indoors. Yes, that is a pre-Covid statistic.
For most people, a significant amount of this indoor time is spent at work, whether that is in an office, warehouse, school, hospital, restaurant or bar. IAQ in each of these environments needs to be taken seriously, as the EPA has “consistently ranked indoor air pollution among the top five environmental risks to public health.”
Buyhive knows that the key to good IAQ is to circulate better air throughout the workplace. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, such as with a Medify Air Purifier that cleans and circulates air to even the far reaches of an office. Other methods involve a collective effort from workers and employers, who need to understand the risks associated with indoor air pollution to create better IAQ.
Most of us have experienced breathing polluted air, but when you think of “polluted air,” what probably comes to mind is pollution from a factory, or cars on a busy street. Whether pollution is inside or outside, the EPA warns that ill-health effects stemming from bad air are the same.
Managing indoor air pollution in offices and workplace environments is notoriously difficult. Whereas problems with equipment, such as desks and computers, can be solved by switching them out, fighting poor IAQ is a constant battle. It is not surprising that this threat is so common when you consider that pollutants can come from inside and outside sources. Building maintenance activities can contribute to creating a short-term unsafe level of indoor pollutants, and so too can pest control, over cleaning, renovations and remodelings, finishes on furniture and of course, the people we share the building with.
It may sound innocent enough, but employers should consider the following:
The amount of money that poor indoor air costs employers nationwide each year due to medical care and lost productivity, according to EPA estimates.
The number of people afflicted by an asthma attack triggered by biological contaminants, such as “bacteria, viruses, fungi (including molds), dust mite allergen, animal dander and pollen,” according to EPA estimates.
The amount of school-age children who have asthma, “which is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness.” Additionally, incidents of child asthma are on the rise.
Of the top five environmental dangers to people identified by the EPA, which includes lack of access to health care and diseases caused by microbes, indoor air pollution is number two on the list.
Heightened awareness of the above statistics and the impact they have on students and workers has led to a revolution in the study of indoor air pollution. Scientists and researchers are collecting some fascinating findings showing that we should consider the air we breathe just as important as the food and water we eat and drink. Take a look for yourself:
Mark Hernandez, professor in the Environmental Engineering Program at Colorado University Boulder conducted a months-long study measuring air quality in 36 local schools. Among his findings were that humidity, temperature and air particles were inconsistent from classroom to classroom, even in the same building. To improve air quality, he installed medical-grade HEPA air filters, such as those found in the air purifiers sold by Buyhive, in over 60 classrooms. This effort is producing astonishing results, as Hernandez believes that we can improve IAQ for students at less than $100 per student!
As of June 2021, the study is ongoing, but there are high hopes that “[Professor] Hernandez’ work will hopefully show [school] district leadership that the HEPA units are another way that we can improve indoor air quality as we look at the next round of federal funding,” said Joni Rix, environmental program manager for Denver Public Schools.
A report of findings was published by a panel of scientists in May 2021, studying the effects of indoor air pollution in commercial buildings on people’s health. The scientists are trying to find an audience within the US government, as their findings conclude that there are plenty of good laws regulating sanitation, food safety and drinking water, but “by contrast, airborne pathogens and respiratory infections… are addressed fairly weakly, if at all, in terms of regulations, standards, and building design and operation, pertaining to the air we breathe.”
Their findings highlight some of the EPA statistics quoted above, as the scientists discuss preventable transference of airborne pathogens, and the economic loss that comes from resulting health problems. Indoor air pollution should be combated “with a recognition that preventing respiratory infection, like reducing waterborne or foodborne disease, is a [solvable] problem.”
The EPA gives us tons of guidance on how we can improve IAQ, and the good
news is that most of it involves an exercise in common sense. There are bigger things that employers can do, such as overhauling their HVAC system, but there are also smaller things that everyone can do, like not blocking vents or grilles and coordinating with an air flow specialist prior to a redesign.
The EPA may give us a plethora of best practices to improve IAQ and reduce indoor air pollution, but the reality is that most of us do not control the behavior of every single human being in our workplace settings. It takes a cohesive approach from a building full of workers and tenants to implement a good IAQ policy, as well as training, compliance and oversight.
Employers may or may not be able to sacrifice work time to create an all encompassing strategy, and replacing or overhauling an HVAC system is a nice thought, but not very economical. The EPA recommends that employers should “consider using portable air cleaners to supplement increased HVAC system ventilation and filtration, especially in areas where adequate ventilation is difficult to achieve.”
Workplace safety companies such as Buyhive have grasped this concept and expanded their ability to protect workers by investing in air purifying technology. In May 2021, Buyhive announced their partnership with a leading manufacturer of medical-grade air purifiers. This was a visionary strategic decision, since the future of workplace safety will not be defined by the air we breathe.
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that the air we breathe needs to be considered with the same importance as the food we eat and the water we drink. After all, before there was a Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sickness from foodborne pathogens was rampant, and before there was an EPA, pollution was unchecked.
Of course, not many people like the fact that we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors, on average, but that reality needs to wake up workers who are clocking in everyday in offices that are contributing to poor health, and if employers want to show they care about worker health, then this is a pivotal moment for them to do so. The data is piling up amid the realization that came from Covid — that the air we breathe matters, a lot, when it comes to our health.
Keeping the air in your workspace pure and free of harmful elements is Buyhive’s top priority. Purchase our tried-and-tested, superior air purifiers for your office, school, restaurant, warehouse or healthcare facility today!