sick building syndrome

What is Sick Building Syndrome? 

If your building occupants complain of acute symptoms like headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat, a dry cough, itchiness, fatigue, cold-like symptoms and aggravation of asthma that goes away when they change environments, your facility may have a case of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). 

Typically caused by inadequate ventilation, chemical contaminants, and biological contaminants found in your HVAC system, sick building syndrome cost companies millions in employee absenteeism, decreased productivity, and increased healthcare premiums annually. 

Implementing a sick building syndrome prevention plan into your building, facility, or business can safeguard the health of your employees, clients, and visitors. Read on to learn more about sick building syndrome and how you can prevent it from occurring in your facility.

Causes of Sick Building Syndrome

Poor ventilation, dust, tobacco smoke, mold, formaldehyde, asbestos, air pollution from cleaning products, pesticides, carbon monoxide, heat, and low humidity are all possible causes of sick building syndrome conditions. 

Many older buildings contain contaminants like asbestos, while newer buildings may contain manufactured wood products that contain higher levels of formaldehyde, which has been recognized as a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Improper HVAC maintenance can lead to poor ventilation and a buildup of mold, fungi, and dust on HVAC coils, which can be spread through a building’s ductwork.

Additionally, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, pesticides, and even ozone let off by laser printers and photocopiers can adversely affect the lung health of occupants. 

Even lighting conditions can play a role in sick building syndrome, as poor lighting and a lack of natural lighting can quickly lead to fatigue and other general malaise.

How Is Sick Building Syndrome Similar to Building-Related Illness?

Although sick building syndrome is identified on a case-by-case basis, building-related illnesses are a collection of diseases with direct, concrete causal links to specific indoor conditions. Generally, sick building syndrome consists of a group of nonspecific symptoms that do not ultimately lead to a diagnosis, while building-related illnesses are particular conditions such as Legionnaire’s Disease, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergies, and rashes. It is essential to note the contrast between sick building syndrome and building-related illnesses, as BRI’s typically have more substantial medical effects and can be attributed directly to indoor air conditions surrounding the individual.

How Does Indoor Air Quality Affect Worker Performance?

Poor IAQ can make your employees more susceptible to adverse health effects that may increase the amount of sick leave they take during the year. Many studies surrounding the tangible effects of sick building syndrome conditions on absenteeism pin annual global financial losses resulting from indoor air quality and SBS to the tune of hundreds of millions, if not reaching into the scope of billions of dollars lost as a result of absenteeism.

In addition to absenteeism, poor IAQ can negatively affect employee mood, cognitive function, and productivity. Aside from physical effects, it can also lead to mood swings, fatigue, and depression. Workers who believe their leaders do not care about their health and well-being may also be less motivated to perform at their best. 

Sick Building Syndrome Prevention

You can ensure that your facility remains safe while operating at peak efficiency by performing regular HVAC and air duct maintenance. Upgraded air filtration, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, and natural ventilation are all critical factors in preventing sick building syndrome from happening in your facility.

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

humidity

Do Humidity Levels Affect my Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor Air Humidity

No matter where your building is located, indoor air humidity can affect the comfort of your customers and employees, as well as proper functioning of your HVAC systems. Managing ideal indoor humidity levels should be a priority for every facility managers, especially when it comes to indoor environmental quality.

Humidity levels can have a huge impact on your IAQ. Viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory illnesses thrive in environments with extreme high and low levels of humidity. Allergens such as dust mites and mold spores also thrive best in environments with high humidity. Noxious chemicals, such as ozone and formaldehyde, are also more likely to form in high humidity environments.  

During the summer, the average indoor air humidity levels in your building should fall between 30 and 45%. In the winter, some facilities may require levels lower than 40% to avoid condensation on windows. ASHRAE recommends a 45 to 55% humidity range to manage illnesses and their health effects. If you do not control humidity levels in your building, it can cause discomfort, chemical reactions, and health disorders.

How Can I Determine if My Building is too Humid?

When determining whether high humidity is present in your facility, you can look for visual signs, such as frequent window fogging, moisture build-up on ceiling tiles, and mold. Additionally, your building may have a musty odor, or the air may feel “stale.”   

High humidity doesn’t just cause health issues like asthma, eye irritation, wheezing, and lung infections – it can even damage your furniture, walls, and floors. High humidity levels are most prominent during the summer and is often found in buildings with poorly functioning HVAC systems and/or inadequate ventilation. By maintaining indoor humidity levels between 40 and 60%, you can help reduce adverse health effects caused by high humidity. 

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

Ventilation Systems

Building Ventilation Systems: How Much Ventilation Do I Need?

building ventilation systemBuilding Ventilation Systems

Ventilation is the process of bringing fresh outdoor air into a building to replace contaminated indoor air. Mechanical ventilation distributes airflow to rooms within a facility by way of fans and ductwork.

Returning to your building after COVID-19 lockdowns generally does not require a new building ventilation system. Many building owners and facility managers, however, are increasingly implementing building ventilation system upgrades and improvements to deliver more clean air to occupants.

The amount of ventilation your building needs to improve IAQ largely depends on several factors, including your facility, how you use it, and how your HVAC systems are running. Ventilation techniques have significantly improved over the last few decades and is now believed to have a direct impact on building occupants’ health and productivity. 

In addition to opening windows and using fans, facility managers and building owners can improve ventilation by increasing total HVAC airflow to occupied spaces, increasing air filtration, properly maintaining air filters, and implementing ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.

Increasing the amount of outdoor air coming into your building can help control temperature, humidity, pollutant levels, odors, and other factors that can impact your occupants’ the health. Air exchange rate is the rate at which indoor air is replaced by outdoor air. This number can largely differ depending on building applications and may vary by state codes.  

For more information of state indoor air quality regulations and policies, check out our interactive IAQ Map.

How Can I Determine the Ventilation Rate of my Facility?

When determining the ventilation rate of your building, there are five factors that can come into consideration: ventilation system design, outside air supply, outdoor air quality, equipment maintenance, and controlling other pollutant pathways.  

As all buildings are designed differently and serve different uses, determining the ventilation rate of your building depends on things such as the number of people in your building, the amount of equipment you have, and the purpose of use. For instance, if you use an area within your building differently than its original purpose (such as converting a closet into meeting space), your HVAC system may require modifications to accommodate such changes.   

Outside air that is delivered through your HVAC system helps dilute the many pollutants let off by building materials, equipment, people, furnishings, and more. Your outside air supply is critical in providing comfort in occupied spaces. Outdoor air pollutants, like carbon monoxide, can adversely impact your indoor conditions when it enters your building’s ventilation system, which is why choosing the right air filter and properly maintaining it is important. Additionally, you may have to take the placement of furniture and equipment into consideration – equipment that generates heat (such as computers or monitors) can impact the delivery of air to occupied spaces and cause your HVAC system to deliver air that is too cold.  

By diligently maintaining your HVAC equipment, you can contribute to adequate air delivery and quality. When it comes to addressing other areas of your building where pollutants can spread, such as elevator shafts and stairwells, you may need to provide special ventilation control measures to manage such sources.  

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

improve indoor air quality

How Can I Improve Indoor Air Quality in My Building?

How to Improve Indoor Air in Your Building

Aside from ensuring that your air vents or grilles are not blocked, you may find yourself wondering how you can improve indoor quality in your building. In addition to considering the placement of furniture and equipment based on your HVAC system’s air circulation, temperature control, and pollutant removal functions, and integrating IAQ concerns into your purchasing decisions, there are a few additional steps you can take to improve the IAQ in your building: 

1) Consider upgrading your air filters to polarized media filtration 

Many businesses are currently using MERV 13 or higher air filters because of their ability to trap air particles that range from 1.0 to 3.0 microns in sizeHowever, these filters are not as effective in trapping air particles down to 0.3 microns, which means they are less effective at trapping microbes such as viruses and bacteria. The thickness of MERV 13 filters also means that your HVAC systems must work harder and use more energy.  

Our polarized media filters use an electric charge and filter media with antimicrobial technology that capture particles down to 0.3 microns. These filters clump small particles together, making them easier to capture while simultaneously reducing the pressure put on your HVAC system. Unlike regular MERV and HEPA filters, which need to be changed every 30 to 90 days, our polarized media filter replacement pads only need to be changed every 120 to 180 days.  

2) Utilize Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) 

UVGI is a disinfection method that uses short wavelengths of ultraviolet light (called UV-C) to kill or inactivate pathogens and microorganisms on surfaces and in the air. It has been used for years in hospitals, healthcare facilities, dental practices, and more. At 254nm, UV-C light is powerful enough to inactivate contaminants such as mold, viruses, bacteria and from the air as it cycles through your central air system. UVGI can be used to continuously clean your HVAC system’s cooling coils and if additional disinfection measures are needed, can be installed throughout your ductwork to clean the air.  

3) Continuously monitor and manage your air with ECOSENSE Platforms 

Once you have installed upgraded filtration and UVGI in your HVAC system, you can continuously monitor and manage your air to ensure that your lamps and filtration are working properly. Our proprietary sensors collect, monitor, track, and report data through gateways and dashboards built by us, so you can prove your systems are working, restore consumer confidence, and reopen the doors to your business safely.  

Have another question about how to improve indoor air quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

iaq problems

What Are the Most Common Causes of IAQ Problems?

What Are the Most Common Causes of IAQ Problems?

Common IAQ problems stem from multiple sources, including building occupants, weather, activities inside a building, and the relationship between building materials and furnishings. Inadequate temperature, high humidity, poor circulation, insufficient outdoor air intake, contaminants, and issues with your ventilation system are some of the most common causes of poor IAQ.  

Building occupants contribute to poor IAQ due to carbon dioxide, perfume, and body odors. Building materials such as dust, asbestos, fiberglass, and formaldehyde can also contaminate the air. Cleaning chemicals, such as solvents or disinfectants, can let off toxic vapors and VOCs, while everyday items such as carpets, paints, and furniture can release off-gas emissions into the air. Carpets and fabrics are notorious for collecting dust-mites and common office items like photocopy machines can be a source of ozone. 

Most significantly, your HVAC system can be one of the worst culprits of IAQ problems. Damp areas, stagnant water, and condensate pans are breeding grounds for mold, bacteria, and fungi, which are then passed through your ductwork and into your indoor environment. 

Have another question about UVGI, ECOSENSE Platforms or Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

business solutions iaq

How Do I know Which IAQ Solutions Are Right for My Business?

How Do I know Which IAQ Solutions Are Right for My Business?

With so many choices of devices on the market that claim to measure many complex indoor air pollutants, knowing which IAQ solutions to choose for your business can feel confusing and overwhelming. Many indoor air quality devices have come under fire for deceptive and misleading claims about effectiveness.

A robust IAQ solution encompasses awareness, understanding, and action. A system with the right sensors that measure contaminant levels can help you monitor what’s in your air. Systems that provide data analytics make it easy to understand your specific situation so you can then take action and implement controls that lower the pollution inside of your facility.   

Ensuring that your system or device is calibrated correctly is vital; otherwise, you may experience wild swings in your readings. Finally, it is crucial to know how to interpret your readings.  

When evaluating an indoor air quality system for your business, consider asking yourself the following:  

  • Does the system provide reading thresholds to inform whether a reading is good or bad? 
  • Does the system have mobile or desktop apps that allow you to perform data analysis? 
  • Does the system tell you how your air quality is at a glance? 
  • Does the system help you understand what kind of behaviors are causing negative changes (i.e., using cleaning products or high humidity levels)? 
  • Does the system help you identify trends over times and seasons? 
  • Does the system tell you when you need to act?  

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!

laws regulations image

To What Indoor Air Quality Standards or Laws Do Companies Have to Abide by?

indoor air quality standardsTo What Indoor Air Quality Standards or Laws Do Companies Have to Abide by?

While federal organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do not currently regulate indoor air quality standards, local and state ordinances are rapidly changing. New or emerging policies on IAQ are imminent.   

ANSI/ASHRAE Standards 62.1 and 62.2 are the most widely recognized IAQ and ventilation standards that mandate the minimum ventilation rates and other measurements needed to minimize negative health effects for your building occupants in new and existing buildings.

Guidance can vary at a state or local level. For instance, the New York State Department of Health released interim guidance during the Coronavirus Pandemic requiring that food service establishments in New York City install HVAC filtration with a minimum rating of MERV-13 or industry equivalent.  California has at least 25 state policies that mandate air filtration system upgrades in schools, radon exposure in construction materials, and more. 

Learn more about state-by-state IAQ regulations with our interactive State IAQ Regulations & Policies Map.

Regularly check with your local and state governments for the most up-to-date guidance on indoor air regulations and laws.  

Have another question about Indoor Air Quality? Contact us today at 866-470-0827 or email your question to info@ecogroupusa.com!