While many of us have often complained about our jobs, employers and co-workers being difficult to deal with, most people don’t associate their place of employment as the root cause for making them ill or sick.
Back in the 1980’s the term “sick building syndrome” was coined and it related to the fact that the indoor air quality in many commercial, institutional and industrial buildings was so poor that many of the employees developed allergies, respiratory issues and even asthma from long term indoor exposure.
After a lot of study it was determined that some of the main causes for the poor indoor air quality were lack of ventilation and/or amount of fresh air and the chemicals that were being off gassed from the building materials and office equipment. In addition, many of the office sections that were attached to manufacturing sections were down wind of the contaminants being produced by the manufacturing processes.
Many employees sued their employers and building owners and managers and made the building and mechanical engineers aware that this IAQ problem was significant. As a result of the employee fire storm a number of changes were made by both ASHRAE ( American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) and BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) for new construction of buildings. These new changes; both in building materials and HVAC modifications, made some significant headway in maintaining a healthier, safer work environment.
Some of these changes included adding more outside air through the economizers located in the HVAC air handling units, better heating/cooling comfort level controls and better ventilation for office equipment such as printers, copiers and fax machines. These changes went a long way to making significant improvements in the work environment. Then came 9/11 followed by the current economic meltdown.
While these two events did not happen simultaneously, they both have negated many of the changes that were previously made to ensure better indoor air quality. 9/11 forced many building owners to reduce or eliminate the amount of fresh outside air introduced into the buildings. They were concerned with the possibility of terrorists using chemical or radiological gases and these gases being drawn into the building.
This change did two things. First, it reduced the amount fresh air and reduced air exchange rate. Secondly, because they were not bringing in cold or hot humid outside air, they found their heating and cooling bills were substantially lower. So in one case it increased the amount of CO2 in the work environment which brought back the IAQ problem but it did save them money.
This event was shortly followed by the slowdown in the economy and the current economic meltdown. With fewer employees in the office buildings and with more companies having significant cash flow issues, there was no need to go back to the modified ventilation rates and other IAQ positive practices. In addition, with the threat of losing a job a reality for many people, nobody is going to complain or sue their employee because of some indoor air quality problem.
Today, the problems with poor indoor air quality still exist and employees are still having some of the same issues that they had in the 80’s.
Pure Air Systems has been making fan powered HEPA based air filtration systems since 1985. From the beginning these units were designed to not only filter the air in a select area but also have the ability to introduce outside, filtered fresh air into a building with minimal affect on the heating or cooling costs. For more information on how these systems work and the complete product line please go to: www.pureairsystems.com