A LOOK AT IAQ AND DUST
Achoo! A-a-a-choo! AAAchoo!
It’s like a domino effect. Suddenly, everyone in the office is sneezing. Is it allergies? A cold? There was that exposé about the dangers of indoor mold hiding between walls … it must be mold! That’s it. Time to clear the building. Suddenly, occupants are up in arms over possible causes of their discomfort.
Likely, the looming culprit is much smaller but even more elusive: dust.
Sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, upper respiratory problems — yes, many of the health challenges building occupants report can be chalked up to the tiny particles floating around a building, as research from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) demonstrates. Dust may be made up of outside soil, dead skin cells, fibers from carpets and clothing, and tissue from paper. When occupants neglect to keep their space organized, these particles build up and dramatically worsen the air quality.
Do you remember the character Pig-Pen from the classic comic strip “Peanuts”? Somehow, he’s followed everywhere by a cloud of dust. As much as this may be an exaggeration, it’s not unlike many office environments. Papers pile up on desks and quickly collect dust. When the piles are disturbed or moved, the tiny particles go airborne.
In studies conducted by Building Air Quality, areas observed over a 10-day period showed “explosive increases” of airborne dust particles when the occupant was in the office. When occupants come in to work, daily activity distributes the dust on surfaces back into the air, and we see a dramatic decrease in the IAQ. Simply by being in a space, occupants unknowingly contribute to poor air quality.
To improve air quality and lessen complaints of sneezing and allergies, the first place to start is with each occupant. Air purifiers can help remove airborne dust, but it’s important for occupants to keep their workspaces clean so custodians can do their job and remove dust before it gets kicked up into the air.