The level of outdoor pollution is a growing concern in cities around the globe. But our indoor air quality can have just as big an affect as does the outdoors. Household indoor air quality is usually the focus – protecting our elders, children and family members from the toxic effects of VOCs or mould growth is at the top of many minds. But if you’re a business owner, you should also consider the effect that the indoor air quality of your office or store has on your employees and customers.
A recent study found that the indoor air quality of retail stores is often worse when outdoor air pollution is high. Looking to identify culprits in poor indoor air quality, the authors of this review looked at online databases and studies related to indoor air quality at retail stores around the world. Three factors they focused on as having a great effect on indoor air quality were air filtration, ventilation, and VOCs.
Air filtration seems like an obvious part of having good indoor air quality, but filters need regular maintenance – installing one once and forgetting about it will decrease the efficacy of your system and eventually cause poor indoor air quality as it gets clogged with contaminants. Having your air filter changed regularly and the system tested and repaired if necessary will have a positive effect on your indoor air quality.
Filtration is just part of the indoor air quality system – ventilation is its close sibling. Ventilation is more than just moving air around or bringing new air in, and poor ventilation can cause many indoor air quality issues. Ventilation is a combination of processes: bringing in new air, conditioning that air (such as through filtration), distributing that air, and then exhausting it outside again. If one part of this chain is broken, your indoor air quality may suffer as a result. One potential indoor air quality issue that could arise from a faulty ventilation system is an accumulation of carbon dioxide gas, which may cause people to become drowsy or have headaches.
The review found that retail shops and offices (especially those with frequently opening and closing outside doors) had poorer indoor air quality than restaurants and hospitals, where exhaust fans helped keep indoor air quality at a high level.
VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are organic chemicals that vaporize at room temperature, thereby affecting your indoor air quality as they are released into your indoor atmosphere. New office furniture, ceiling tiles, or even the photocopier can off-gas VOCs into your office environment, and these pollutants collect and can have a huge effect on your indoor air quality and the health and productivity of your employees and customers.
If you suspect that something isn’t right with the indoor air quality of your business, it’s important to have a professional visit and test your site. They can help identify problems and offer solutions to improve your indoor air quality, whether it be airflow patterns, ventilation, or a dirty furnace. While there are no umbrella laws in Canada that deal with indoor air quality in your business, there is, however, a clause common to all occupational health and safety legislation that states that an employer must provide a safe and healthy workplace – which includes your indoor air quality! Ventilation is a key part of many building codes, and if you’re worried about your business’s indoor air quality, the building code should provide you with a set of guidelines and criteria to help you reach an acceptable standard.