Indoor Air Quality Solutions Blog

"Healthier Air Starts Here" (407) 383-9459


Indoor Air Quality IAQ Blog





Workplace Air Quality: Sometimes Dust Is The Problem


Microshield Workplace IAQJuly 03, 2012|By BARBARA NAGY, Conn. Health I-Team Writer, The Hartford Courant

The office workers, police officers, social workers and court employees Brian Sauvageau talks with have reached a breaking point.

They might come to work feeling OK, but soon develop chronic coughs and sneezing, scratchy throats, itchy eyes and even headaches. No one can find the mold they think is causing their symptoms. Unsympathetic colleagues say they feel just fine, so there can’t be anything wrong.

The problem is surprisingly simple, said Sauvageau, an occupational hygienist with CONN OSHA — the state Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The culprit isn’t mold. It’s dust — the tiny particles of fiber, skin scales, insect parts, pollen, cobwebs and dirt that settle on surfaces everywhere.

Indoor air quality is a growing issue. Belt-tightening has reduced custodial staff and budgets. Time-pressed workers aren’t enthusiastic about cleaning their workspaces. And the growing number of extreme weather events makes for more leaks and flooding. Poor air circulation and blocked heating systems aggravate the problem.

The impact is staggering. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that poor indoor air quality costs tens of billions of dollars annually in lost productivity and added health care. One study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2010 concluded that improving workplace environments could save businesses $300 per worker each year.

In the past 14 months, Sauvageau has investigated 20 complaints filed by people who thought that mold was compromising the air quality in their workplaces. Of hundreds of samples that he collected, only one had mold levels that were considered significant.

“It seems invariably I find dust,” Sauvageau said. “In some cases it’s extremely bad — years of accumulation.”

Solutions require everyone in an office to work together in ways they haven’t had to do before, said Paula Schenck, assistant director of the Center for Indoor Environments and Health at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “It takes a team,” she said.

Workers, their union representatives, building owners, managers and cleaning staff all have to buy into the solution, said Ken Tucker, director of CONN OSHA.

“We do know air quality is a growing problem,” said Larry Dorman, a spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in New Britain. “It’s one of the hidden dangers of the workplace.”

The union has worked with the state and with several municipalities on air quality in buildings ranging from schools in Bridgeport to police headquarters in Hartford. Workers are often unaware of the hazards. “And employers don’t tend to be proactive on issues like that. Sometimes it’s not their fault,” he said, noting that the state leases much of its office space.

Often, employees don’t realize that there’s more to air quality than mold levels.

Mold can be highly hazardous, Schenck emphasized. But people should look first for more obvious culprits if they don’t smell mold, can’t see water stains on walls or ceilings, and aren’t aware of any dampness or water from leaks, seepage or humidity.

“People go nuts about mold because it’s been so publicized, and I appreciate the concern,” Schenck said. “I always talk about three things: ventilation, moisture and dirt/dust.” Mold, she said, is always related to a water problem. “What mold tells you is there’s water where it shouldn’t be, and a biological material is growing.”

Dust is such a prevalent problem, Sauvageau made it the topic of an article in CONN OSHA’s May newsletter ( http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/osha/2012/qtly-may12.htm). There is no doubt about its irritating effects.

People have different tolerances for the mites, pollen and spores in dust that builds up. Those who are sensitive have allergic reactions. Those who aren’t might think that nothing is wrong. The location of people’s workspaces can also aggravate their symptoms.

None of this is a surprise to Ray Cassarino, owner of Cassarino Commercial Cleaning in Wethersfield.

“I go into an office and the women are sneezing, especially at the reception desk. It’s a haven for dust,” he said. Cassarino lifts the phones, looks at the wires behind the computers and checks under small equipment like fax machines. He can tell how long the dust has been there by how it clumps up. “It’s sick what I find,” he said.

Symptoms like itchy eyes, a runny nose and headaches can be caused inadequate ventilation and by dust and dirt because the respiratory system is being irritated. People feel better once they leave the environment, Schenck said. Asthma-like symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, are harder to diagnose as building-related. Breathing can be affected by a wide range of irritants — including mold. Prolonged exposure to some of the contaminants in dust can also cause asthma-like symptoms.

Sensitivity and exposure make all the difference. Schenck recalls one woman who complained that the vent above her desk was blowing air onto her. The custodian, trying to be helpful, diverted the flow with a piece of plastic. The woman became ill and couldn’t understand why — after all, the air wasn’t blowing on her anymore. A UConn hygienist took a “wipe” sample from the plastic and discovered that it was loaded with bacteria and mold.

When Sauvageau goes into workplaces, he finds congested offices and desks loaded with clutter. Storage spaces are too small, so supplies and equipment are piled in work areas. Heating and air conditioning equipment isn’t maintained and cleaned. The walls and floors behind heating units and desks are filthy. Furniture obstructs ventilation or makes it hard for the cleaning staff to do its work. People don’t want anything on their desks or shelves moved, which also makes cleaning difficult.

Some buildings — hospitals, factories and schools, for example — are now courthouses, town halls and offices. They weren’t designed for that use. Balancing the ventilation and keeping the space clean can be a tremendous challenge.

Cassarino said that many companies have cut back on spending for custodial services. They have unrealistic expectations of how much can be done in a limited time with a limited budget.

“It’s a bidding war,” Cassarino said. He suggests that businesses and building owners carefully evaluate not only cost, but the level of service they’ll receive.

Sauvageau wants employers to realize that poor air quality can affect employee attendance, productivity and morale. Some of the people who called CONN OSHA were facing disciplinary actions for missing work too often because of their illnesses. They had been diagnosed with sinus infections, bronchitis, allergies and asthma.

Building managers have a hard time because people like different temperatures and have different tolerances for air flow. Generally, Schenck said, it’s not good to cut down on ventilation. That lets contaminants accumulate. She also discourages the use of scented air fresheners because they irritate some people.

That, she said, is the kind of “joint responsibility” that’s required to create a healthy environment. For their part, workers need to be vigilant about their own spaces, and they need to make sure that what they do doesn’t diminish air quality for their co-workers.

If you are having problems, Schenck and Sauvageau suggest you:

• Act promptly, because prolonged exposure can lead to chronic symptoms.

• Start by defining and tracking your symptoms. What time of day do you have them, and where are you?

• Try to correct the problem through your supervisor and union representativess first. Consider breaking down the office and doing a thorough cleaning. When dust is the problem, symptoms often improve immediately.

This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).

    John P. Lapotaire, CIEC
    Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant
    Microshield Environmental Services, LLC
    www.Microshield-ES.com  www.CFL-IAQ.com



Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)


Follow jlapotaire on Twitter


Review microshield-es.com on alexa.com
   

[Valid RSS]
Add this Content to Your Site
   


Latest Top (12) News


EPISODE473 - FLASHBACK Claude Blackburn -Founder Dri-Eaz Products
Today on IAQ Radio we bring out of the archival vault the Z-mans favorite episode from 8-13-2010, Episode 177 with Claude Blackburn. We are calling this one "From humble beginning to raging success, a candid conversation with the Dri-Eaz Products Founder". Radio Joe and the Z-man will be back live next week but do not miss this classic. Claude Blackburn became involved in the cleaning and restoration industry in 1972. Through a combination of courage, determination, hard work and creativity he founded and built Dri-Eaz Products (based in Burlington, Washington) into a business and brand recognized globally as a leader in structural drying. When Claude sold Dri-Eaz in 2006 it had almost 200 employees, 150 distributors and sales of 50 million. LEARN MORE about this remarkable man and how he built his company this week on IAQ Radio!

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:00:16 -0400


EPISODE472 - FLASHBACK FRIDAY - Jeffrey Siegel Ph.D.
Dr. Jeff Siegel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at The University of Toronto. Prior to accepting his current position he was an Associate Professor at the University of Texas, Austin. His interests and research have focused on healthy and sustainable buildings, ventilation and indoor air quality in residential and commercial buildings, control of indoor particulate matter, secondary impacts of control technologies and strategies, aerosol dynamics in indoor environments and HVAC systems. He is also keenly interested in ensuring that good research works its way into practice and this week we want to focus on that theme. Dr. Siegel's Ph.D. is in Mechanical Engineering (2002) from the University of California, Berkeley, he also has an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering (1999) from the same institution and a B.S. in Engineering (1995) from Swarthmore College. He is a prolific researcher and speaker and a very active member of professionals societies and associations including ISIAQ and ASHRAE.

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:00:35 -0400


EPISODE471 - FLASHBACK FRIDAY - In Memoriam Larry Robertson
This week we go back in the archives to a few shows we did with an IAQ and Mold pioneer Larry Robertson. Larry joined us twice over the years and Radio Joe has gone back through those shows to put together a highlight real. LEARN MORE this week on IAQ Radio! Larry Robertson, the Indoor Air Quality Association's 1st President and founding Board Member. Mr. Robertson was a leader in IAQ research and services for over 3 decades. He is known for establishing Mycotech Biological, Inc. (MBI), one of the first environmental laboratories that specialized in the identification of fungi associated with HVAC systems. He also contributed in the initial development of the CIE and CMR certification programs and served on the Texas Mold Task Force relative to the development of mold regulations in the State of Texas. Larry published many papers in peer reviewed journals along with a mountain of other papers, articles and presentations. He was a prolific volunteer to industry associations and received numerous special recognition's and awards.

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 12:00:41 -0400


EPISODE470 - Andrew Streifel -Environmental Infection Control
This week on IAQ Radio we welcome Andrew Streifel. Andrew J. Streifel is a Hospital Environment Specialist with the Department of Environmental Health & Safety at the University of Minnesota. Whenever there is a high profile hospital acquired infection one of the first names that comes to mind is Andy Streifel. Mr. Streifel has been involved in the investigation of over 80 clusters of infection related to hospital air quality. He has served as a consultant in over 400 hospitals worldwide on a variety of indoor air quality issues, water microbial contamination and has investigated clusters of bacterial infections due to unsanitary clinical practice. His current research interests involve energy management impact on infection prevention and validation of the air and water safety in healthcare facilities. Andy is a registered Environmental Health Specialist in Minnesota. He currently serves as an invited nonvoting member on the Maintenance Committee for the SSPC 170: ASHRAE Standard for Ventilation of Health Care Facilities 2008 - present. Mr. Streifel is also serving on the revision committee for the 2014 edition of the FGI Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities. He has served on this committee since 1994 and has participated in the development of the 1996, 2001, and 2006, 2010, 2014 & 2018 editions. In addition Mr. Streifel has served on the Special Project committee that authored the HVAC Design Manual for Hospitals and Clinics. He was an author on ASHRAE published articles on Ventilation for the Protection of Immune Compromised Patients-1988, Construction Impact on Indoor Air Quality-1995 and Air Leakage Analysis of Special Ventilation Hospital Rooms-2008. Mr. Streifel has assisted University of Minnesota Institute of Technology & School of Public Health as technical advisor on filtration, patient room airflow studies and particle management projects. He also serves on the National Air Duct Cleaners Association Standards Committee. In addition, he is an author in over 50 articles, published in the academic and professional journals, related to ventilation and water quality in health care.

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 12:00:46 -0400


EPISODE469 -Kristy & Justin Sifford -Listen Better, Plan Better, Hire Bett
This week on IAQ Radio we welcome two people with a rare combination of credentials in the industry. Kristy and Justin Sifford both have extensive experience in the construction and flooring industry and are also experienced professionals on hiring, promoting and retaining employees along with other business operations issues. Just about every business has to wrestle with employment issues and very few business owners are also experts in hiring and recruitment of employees. Some will hire a company like Wylander and others will learn as much about the process as possible and do it themselves. Whatever your style you will learn more during this show. Kristy Sifford founded the company after years of flooring industry experience that included an excellent track record of finding and placing top talent in both flooring and restoration positions. She is a highly successful matchmaker in this business. Kristy started working in her family owned flooring store in college, and grew to develop a flooring company, which was part of a large Disaster Restoration and Carpet Cleaning Company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. In addition to recruiting, she has worked with many clients in the flooring industry on process improvement and handling remote accounting for flooring companies. Justin Sifford worked in the flooring industry for over 20 years and the restoration industry for over a decade. Having owned flooring companies in the past he has a unique perspective that allows him to appreciate the struggles his clients have owning a business and employing and keeping top talent. He previously worked as the Vice President of Operations for a company that offered consulting and recruiting services to the flooring and restoration industries. He worked with a wide range of companies, from companies as small as $500,000 up to $20 million. He was able to successfully streamline processes for other companies, identify KPI's, and was the chief architect in the growth of our own company

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:59:59 -0400


EPISODE468 - Flashback Friday - Joseph Ponessa, PhD, MS
Radio Joe and the Zman are on their summer hiatus, returning next week live. This week we are going to flashback to a show from 12-3-2010 with Joe Ponessa, PhD who at the time had recently retired from Rutgers Cooperative Extension after serving 25 years as the Housing, Indoor Environment and Health Specialist. In that position, he worked on curriculum development and outreach education, serving both lay and professional audiences. Areas of specialization included the indoor environment and its impact on health; management of building moisture problems and building science/construction technology. Dr. Ponessa has consulted for The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Centers for Disease Control on Housing-Environmental Health issues. He also taught a course in Building Science Moisture Management Principles for New Jersey Building Code Officials and architects.

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 12:00:15 -0400


EPISODE467 - Flashback Friday - Major L. Long - Fire Restoration Pioneer
Join us as we go back in time and discuss the early days of the disaster restoration field with industry pioneer Major Long. Major was one of the first disaster restoration practitioners. Major Long, CR is a past president of the RIA (1978-1980) and also served a term as the association's disaster restoration technical director. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from one of the early innovators in the field of disaster restoration field.

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:00:06 -0400


EPISODE466 - Flashback Friday to episode 456
Pete Consigli, CR, WLS; Ken Larsen, CR, WLS, CMP ; Peter Crosa, AIC, RPA and Ed Cross, Esq â??Restoration Contractors of the Future: Will they Get a Spine or be Rolled Over?â??

Fri, 30 Jun 2017 12:00:37 -0400


EPISODE465 - Nuno Canha, PhD - University of Lisbon - IAQ and Ventilation
This week on IAQ Radio we welcome another international researcher from the University of Lisbon Nuno Canha, PhD. Dr. Canha recently published a paper "Indoor air quality during sleep under different ventilation patterns". This is a topic we have been interested in but there has not been much research to discuss. We look forward to talking about this paper and and other research Dr. Canha has done related to IAQ issues. Dr. Canha holds a MSc in Chemistry from Instituto Superior Tecnico of University of Lisbon, Portugal, and completed a PhD degree in Environmental Sciences in Delft University of Technology (Delft, The Netherlands) in 2014. His main research interests are instrumental neutron activation analysis, indoor air quality, source apportionment, ventilation rates, atmospheric air quality, exposure to air pollutants and biomonitoring of air pollution with lichens. Join us live today at noon or download the show later to LEARN MORE on IAQ Radio!

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:00:06 -0400


EPISODE464 - Live from the Violand Executive Summit!
We are back at the annual Violand Executive Summit and have lined up a great cast of restoration veterans and up and comers to discuss the topic "Restoration a Changing Industry". 2017 marks the 30th anniversary for Violand Management Associates, who during that time, has grown to become a leading Advisory Services firm in the restoration and cleaning industries. In the spirit of watching a company like Violand Management grow and develop over three decades, we thought it would be fun to explore how the restoration industry itself has changed during that time, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the not so good. We also plan to explore what this group feels are the potential future opportunities and where the industry is going. To help us do that, we have asked a group of Violand Executive Summit participants to help us out and have assembled a talented group of industry veterans and savvy rising stars in restoration. It's great to be back at the Violand Executive Summit! The Veterans Lee King -President After Disaster and current RIA Board of Directors member Wes Williams - Founder and President CJB in the Vancouver BC Scott Stamper - CEO Regency DKI and past RIA president Tom Laska - President ICC Restoration Minneapolis, MN The Next Generation of Leaders Chris Yanker - Production Manager Buffalo Restoration in Bozeman, MT Jacelyn Carpenter - CEO Ideal Restoration, San Francisco, CA and RIA board member Grant Nitzche - President SERVPRO of Wheaton, IL Tom McMahon - Senior Project Manager McMahon Restoration Chicago, IL

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:00:14 -0400


EPISODE463 - Flashback Friday - Martin L. King, ASA, CR
This week we flashback to a show from 3-28-2008 with Martin L. King, ASA, CR. Unfortunately Mr. King is no longer with us but we feel blessed to have this interview with him. We have cleaned up some audio issues and are thrilled that this fantastic interview will live on many years to come. We are proud to have done this interview and plan on dedicating quite a few future Flashback Fridayâ??s to shows with industry leaders that are unfortunately no longer with us, this is the first in that series. Martin King, ASA, CR was the Restoration Industries Association Technical Adviser for 30 years, where he developed a broad range of restoration procedures and published over 300 articles in trade journals. As the CEO of Martin Churchill Associates, Inc. Damage Investigators and Appraisers Mr. King also investigated and prepared formal reports on over 2000 property damage cases. Marty also taught at the University of Maryland in the Fire Sciences group. Mr. King was the man disaster restoration people went to when nobody else could answer their questions. Donâ??t miss this rare opportunity to hear the â??Dean of Disaster Restorationâ??. Also joining us on this show was The â??Restoration Industries Global Watchdogâ?? Pete Consigli and our Technical Director, Dr. Dietrich Weyel.

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 11:59:45 -0400


EPISODE462 - Larry Zarker, CEO BPI & Joe Medosch, Independent Trainer
This week on IAQ Radio we explore a new credential from the home performance world that is directly related to indoor environmental quality. The Building Performance Institute, has recently established the Healthy Home Evaluator credential to add to their list of credentials available. We look forward to talking about this and other home performance community trends with Larry Zarker and Joe Medosch. Larry Zarker is the CEO of the Building Performance Institute, the professional standards setting and credentialing organization for both the weatherization and home performance contracting industries. He oversees BPI's national network of over 12,000 certified professionals and BPI GoldStar contracting companies. He helped found and served on the Board of Directors of Efficiency First, the trade association for America's home performance workforce. Prior to BPI, he worked for nearly twenty years with the NAHB Research Center and was the Vice President of Marketing for over a decade, serving both the new home and remodeling sectors with innovative product development and research. Joe Medosch - Owner of Energy & Environmental Consulting, LLC and Executive Director of Healthy Home Environment Association. He participated in the development of the BPI HHE credential and is a Healthy Homes Master Trainer. His certifications include: BPI Proctor - Building Analyst & Envelope Professional, Healthy Home Evaluator, Infiltration & Duct Leakage, ICC- Commercial & Residential Energy Inspector / Plans Examiner and Residential Building Inspector.

Fri, 02 Jun 2017 11:59:43 -0400
Follow Microshields IAQ News and Headlines Bloglines RSS Feed

Subscribe with Bloglines

 



IAQ News and Articles

Latest Top (10) News
http://recordings.talkshoe.com/rss1547.xml