Dusty air ducts

Is the office air polluted? At work, it is not normal to feel symptoms such as excessive tiredness, headaches, irritation of the eyes and throat; to feel the sensation of lack of air; to be bothered by odor problems; to have difficulty adjusting the room temperature, etc. These situations may be related to indoor air quality (IAQ), and contaminants may be the cause. For some contaminants, guidelines for acceptable indoor concentrations have been established. ASHRAE provides a good summary of these guidelines which include several contaminants whose main source is:

  • Outside air (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide);
  • The most common VOCs (including formaldehyde).

To achieve good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) there are many factors to consider:

  • The type and quantity of contaminants and their movement in space;
  • The supply of outside air, both in quality and quantity;
  • The movement of the air;
  • The cleanliness of the offices and the ventilation system.

Internal contaminants. Contaminants in offices can come from many sources. These contaminants include: Outdoor contaminants from vehicles and plants, such as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, that can enter buildings through ventilation systems and openings, or infiltrate through the walls; Building materials and furniture may also contain chemicals, especially volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are continually released into indoor air; Office equipment, such as printers and photocopiers, can produce ozone and VOCs; Dust and mold can accumulate in ventilation systems and offices, and provide a favorable environment for the growth of microbial organisms;

The occupants themselves can be a source of contaminants, by the gases they produce, by their breathing and transpiration, by the personal hygiene products they use (such as perfumes and deodorants) and by dust, animal hair and squames they carry to their work on their clothes. All these contaminants can make the air vitiated and dusty, give off unpleasant odors and cause dissatisfaction and discomfort to the workers; At high concentrations, these indoor contaminants can cause physical discomfort and, in some cases, serious health problems. The increasing density of occupancy and the high concentration of furniture and equipment in open-plan office may also contribute to increased levels of contaminants.

Guidelines for acceptable levels for other contaminants are not yet available. For example, although mold and VOCs have been associated with physical discomfort and increased dissatisfaction, current research does not provide reliable guidelines for acceptable levels for these contaminants. In the absence of such guidelines, the concentrations of all indoor contaminants should be kept as low as possible.

It would be better to exceed the recommendations of ASHRAE for the ventilation of the premises. Offices should be adequately ventilated with outside air to dilute contaminants and provide oxygen to the occupants. For many years, ASHRAE Standard 62.1 recommended a minimum outdoor air supply rate of 10 liters per second per person (L / s / person), but this rate was recently reduced to 8.5 L / s / person. This reduction allows for energy savings, of course, but its effect on the occupants is not clear, since no research to compare these two rates has yet been done. However, existing research suggests that outdoor air supply rates of less than 10 L / s / person can cause discomfort and dissatisfaction among occupants, increase physical discomfort and absenteeism, and reduce performance of employees in carrying out their tasks. The ASHRAE recommendation of 8.5 L / s / person should be considered an absolute minimum rate; an outside air supply rate of 10 L / s / person is indeed preferable to maintain a good IAQ. Maintaining adequate ventilation in an inhabited space also depends on proper use of the ventilation system.

Special measures should be taken - for example, to increase the rate of ventilation or to isolate space - when renovating offices or installing new materials or furniture, since they generally produce more VOCs. Since outdoor air intake rates are determined by the number of occupants, it is important to establish an appropriate rate based on the number of occupants in the open areas, and to revise it when Occupancy density is changing. Air distribution systems are diffusers, and return vents should be positioned and operated so that air is evenly distributed across all areas of the open area, and contaminants are expelled or removed, diluted with outside air.

The air distribution systems used in North America include:

  • Mixing systems (traditional);
  • Air displacement systems;
  • Personal systems.

Most open-plan offices in North America use the traditional mixing system. If this system is well designed and used, it can produce a good IAQ. IRC researchers found that the size of the workstations, the height of the partitions and the location of the air diffusers had very little effect on the performance of the traditional system in controlling contaminant concentrations in the air of open-plan offices (when the outside air supply rate is 10 liters / second / person). However, occupants of workstations with high partitions tended to be less satisfied with ventilation. This is probably more of a psychological effect than a consequence of the physical environment as such - because the occupants think that the high walls interfere with good air circulation. For this reason, partitions greater than 1.68 m (66 in.) high should be avoided.

Both air displacement systems and personal systems can produce higher IAQ (compared to traditional systems), provided that contaminated and stale air rises sufficiently above the occupants' heads. But these systems can also cause thermal discomfort if they are not used properly. Air displacement systems blow air at floor level, which can lead to drafts if the incoming air temperature is not controlled properly. They can also create temperature gradients between the top and bottom of the room that can be uncomfortable if they are too large.

Factors that contribute to good IAQ. Contaminants can accumulate in office spaces and ventilation systems. Regular and thorough cleaning of the office and ventilation system is required because it reduces the accumulation of dust, VOCs and microbes, thus improving occupant satisfaction and reducing physical discomfort. On the other hand, some cleaning techniques may temporarily cause a redistribution of dust in the air, and many cleaning products contain VOCs; for these reasons, these activities should be undertaken when offices are not occupied.

Control of sources of contaminants. The best way to improve IAQ is to prevent contaminants from entering the office space. Better selection of materials and products reduces the amount of VOC emitted, especially when new materials are introduced into the building. To prevent outdoor contaminants from entering the office, high efficiency air filters must be used in the ventilation system.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturbed workers. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism.

Sick building syndrome

Unhealthy building syndrome represented by employees who seem to have a headache

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a situation in which occupants of office visits have health problems or feelings of inconvenience that are directly related to the interior of that building. Workers suffering from this syndrome may be those who are located in a room or in a particular area, or may come from the entire building. Generally, the symptoms of SBM are as follows:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma attacks
  • Itchy skin
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Irritation of the throat
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid shortness of breath
  • edema
  • Palpitations
  • Complications during pregnancy
  • Irritation of the eyes
  • Irritation of the nose
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dry skin
  • Sensitivity to odors
  • Cold symptoms
  • Dry cough
  • Hoarse voice

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is recognized by various nonspecific symptoms among occupants of the same building, in the same working environment for example. In a work environment where SBS is present, there is a drop in productivity and an increase of absenteeism among workers who feel the repercussions. Increasingly, companies recognize the professional and financial risks of SBS and take this problem seriously.

Avoidable problems ... too seldom avoided. | Although most commercial buildings are equipped with ventilation and air purification units, they are dependent on proper maintenance, equipment maintenance and filter changes are often made unsuitable; quickly ventilation systems only blow air loaded with polluting particles.

Factors that may be responsible for SBB at work | Chemical contaminants from outdoor and indoor sources. Contaminants from outdoor sources come mainly from motor vehicles, plumbing vents, and air intake vents for bathrooms and kitchens. Indoor air pollution occurs when noxious gases or pollutants are removed from the building or penetrate through windows or other openings. These are often combustion by products that come from a garage adjacent to the building; or radon, formaldehyde, asbestos, dust or lead particle (found in paint).

Most indoor contaminants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs come from a wide range of products (for more details on VOCs): adhesives, upholstery, carpet, photocopiers, manufactured wood products, pesticides, cleaning agents, tobacco smoke, particles that can to be inhaled, and by-products


Bacterial culture of biological pollutants

Poor indoor air is loaded with contaminants that poison your life. The main types of indoor air pollutants are biological or chemical. Biological pollutants come from living organisms, such as: molds, fungi, spores, bacteria, mites and pollens. Chemical pollutants are gases, vapors and particles, such as: Asbestos, micro-fibers, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), gaseous formaldehyde, lead and other metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dust of all sizes and micro particles.

Viruses, bacteria, pollen and other bio aerosols have no odors, just like asbestos or metal particles, but they can be present in the air we inspire. This time our nose cannot detect them. However, if a smell of moisture or mold irritates your nostrils, it is because the air is heavily loaded. You are in the presence of decomposition of organic materials certainly major, think to analyze the air of your local to check for wholesomeness. If renovation work is needed, AIRTESTS can help you target mold, presence of VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) such as solvents, paints, etc.

Poor air quality at work greatly reduces employee productivity and increases the rate of absenteeism. For a number of years, to reduce energy consumption, buildings are increasingly isolated. This greatly reduces air infiltration and renewal. Without proper filtering, indoor pollutants are not removed. Poor air quality can cause fatigue, respiratory irritation, colds, flu, asthma, otitis and migraine. To prevent the spread of germs, viruses, bacteria and pollen, choose the purifier that suits you and keep your group activities in peace.

Air quality problems can come from...

  • Indoor environment: temperature, humidity.
  • Air contaminants: chemicals, dust, molds, vapors, gases or odors.
  • Insufficient fresh air from outside.

Indoor air contaminants; the effects on the physiological and psychological health of the occupants. Since you spend more than 90% of your time in closed rooms such as home, school or work ... test the air you breathe is a good way to prevent any pathology that may affect your quality of life, that's also good your employees, your family or people around you. Whether in the residential, commercial - SBS - Sick Building Syndrome (office towers, hotels, concert halls ...), industrial (factories and production lines ...), institutional (CHSLD, hospitals ...), government (buildings of the public service ...), we do not escape the air that is imposed to us.

In the commercial segment, it is imperative to control the quality of the air and the environment since a large number of people come together in a context of proximity; this circumstantial combination makes the propagation in the air of viruses, bacteria and fungi more convincing. Typically, air quality samples are taken from the basement in the water infiltration areas to the highest ventilation ducts in the building.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism.


View of a noscomicale infection seen under a microscope

In Quebec health facilities, it is estimated that between 80,000 and 90,000 people have nosocomial infection, which corresponds to 10% of admissions. Several studies have shown that it is possible to reduce the number of new cases by almost a third, by setting up a well-structured program. For several years, health professionals, including infectious microbiologists and nurses in infection prevention and control, have been devoting time and energy to this activity in health network establishments, where the fight against these infections begins. Where is the primary responsibility for prevention and control of these infections. The hospital environment is a place where many people go daily to receive health care. These people may be more vulnerable to infections or may be carriers of a transmissible infection.

Here, as elsewhere in the world, experience has taught us that several procedures and interventions carried out in the health care setting and the absence of certain measures can promote the transmission of infections. Practices can lead to higher levels of infections than expected. This is why both intervention methods and procedures, as well as the occurrence of nosocomial infections, that is infections acquired in health care settings, must be constantly monitored.

A health service is a complex environment interactions between patients, the interventions they received and the hospital environment. The physical condition and microbial flora of the patient, the treatment administered and the instrumentation used for care are all factors that affect the risk of acquiring and transmitting an infection. Although this is an unavoidable phenomenon, the current knowledge does not predict is eradication, a good management of this risk from a perspective of quality of care must be a target. * Source: Health and Social Services Québec

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism.


Image of smoke from toxic gas

Carbon dioxide, CO2. Carbon dioxide, a colorless and odorless gas, is a normal constituent of the atmosphere found at concentrations ranging from 350 to 400 ppm. In the indoor environment, carbon dioxide is mainly produced by the occupants. The concentration of CO2 in the air can, under certain conditions, be a good indication of the efficiency of the ventilation system; it is expressed in parts per million (ppm). To achieve acceptable indoor air quality, it is recommended that CO2 levels does not exceed 700 ppm higher than outdoor rates. CO2 is only toxic at high concentrations. ASHRAE Standard 62-1989 (Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality) recommends a minimum ventilation rate of 10 liters/second per person for IAQ in offices; this rate can be obtained by the ventilation method. ASHRAE also proposes another method: the IAQ procedure, which uses acceptable concentrations of certain contaminants to achieve good IAQ. In the case of a current occupation rate and normal activities, the minimum outdoor ventilation rate of 10 liters/second per person would give a carbon dioxide concentration of 850 ppm in a stable state of occupied space. A pronounced state of discomfort results in a clear difficulty in breathing and appears when it reaches a concentration of 10,000 ppm of CO2; note that this state of discomfort varies a lot from person to person.

Nitrogen dioxide, NO2. This gas can be present in the indoor environment by the use of gas appliances such as gas stoves, water heaters, fireplaces, heaters, and generators... This gas can also be produced by a vehicle that is allowed to operate in a garage or by cigarette smoke. Nitrogen dioxide can aggravate asthma symptoms, reduce the proper functioning of the respiratory system (coughing, wheezing) ... The best prevention is to properly maintain the appliances on an annual basis and to avoid using any equipment. Combustion in enclosed spaces, not ventilated or even poorly ventilated.

Carbon monoxide CO. This toxic gas is invisible and odorless and does not irritate. It is therefore impossible to detect its presence in the air without a detection device. It is therefore strongly recommended to install CO alarms in houses with combustion appliances. Carbon monoxide (CO), from the operation of a car in a garage or from a heater, is a dangerous poison because of its asphyxiating properties. It accumulates rapidly in the blood and prevents oxygen from being carried by the red blood cells and to oxygenate the individual.
Slight exposure: headache, runny nose, eye irritation, flu-like symptoms, etc.
Average exposure: drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, disorientation, confusion, etc.
Strong exposure: fainting, brain injury, death.

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism


Person blowing dust accumulated on a book

Dusts are very fine solid particles that remain in suspension in the air. These are usually particles separated from materials, tissues, food, skin, animal hair, smoke from combustion ... They can come from our daily activities or from outside environment. Dust is an accumulation of several components whose composition is unknown. It must be analyzed to know all the particles that compose it. Through the respiratory system, they can penetrate inside the body according to its size. "Total dust" has sizes ranging from 10 to 100 microns and can be retained in the nasal cavity. Breathable dusts ranging in size from 5 to 10 microns can enter the trachea, lungs and bronchioles. They can also be swallowed or spit by the individual. Dusts that are very fine (0.5 micron) can be deposited in the pulmonary alveoli. Dust can be found in carpets, fabrics, curtains, sofas, ventilation units and their ducts, fireplaces, kitchen, skirting boards, moldings ... in short, everywhere in the building.

Risk for the health. Dust associated with inadequate moisture promotes mite reproduction. These can cause skin irritation, allergies, respiratory problems ... The risks related to dust also depend on the type in question. Effects that people may have are:

  • Breathing difficulty;
  • Allergies;
  • Toxic effects on the body;
  • Lesions on the nose
  • Fibro genic effects (e.g. connective tissue proliferation in the lungs);
  • Cancer

The dose the body will absorb varies depending on its concentration and the duration of exposure to the contaminant in question. The risks of toxicity and the intensity of the reaction are proportional to the absorption. The health level and the proper functioning of the individual's organs can also influence the level of intoxication of a substance. Generally, workers who smoke tobacco see the toxic effects increase. It can increase the effects of dust on the respiratory tract because it has already decreased the efficiency of the lungs which slows down their cleaning of respiratory cells. For example, it has been shown that tobacco and asbestos and/or silica when exposure is simultaneous, create a synergistic action that increases the harmful effects of the contaminant.

To reduce the amount of dust present in the environment, it is necessary to...

  • Vacuum at least once a week;
  • Dust at of once week;
  • Change filters of purifiers, air conditioners, air exchangers at least twice a year, ideally 4 times a year;
  • Have HVACs, furnaces, ventilation and heating ducts cleaned up to 5 years;
  • Have the air conditioning systems cleaned annually (coils):
  • Limit carpets that accumulate dust;

AIRTESTS evaluates air quality in all indoor environments, we can help you detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, bacteria, mold and dust that disturb occupants of places. By knowing the real state of the place, you will be better able to intervene to alleviate the problems related to the bad quality of the air, you will increase the feeling of well-being of your employees and the productivity of the in addition to reducing absenteeism