Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Know your IAQ

September 19, 2010

Why be concerned about indoor air quality (IAQ)?

It is well-documented that indoor air contaminants can cause physiological and physical changes in humans, including irritation of the nose, throat and skin, allergic reactions, respiratory problems such as asthma, and infections.

Poor IAQ also has been shown to damage building materials, furnishings and equipment.

For example, walls, furnishings and paintings can become coated with residue fumes from cars and trucks, tobacco smoke, fireplaces, cooking — even candles, over time.

Some contaminants can even change the electrical nature of components in electronic equipment.

Here are some steps in-house facility service providers, building service contractors (BSCs), building owners, engineers, managers and occupants can take to protect the air they breathe and the indoor environment.

  • Appoint a team to lead an IAQ program.
  • Educate all major stakeholders on the need for improved IAQ and involve them in programs to protect IAQ, including facility managers, staff and occupants.
  • Educate building occupants on what they can do to protect IAQ and encourage their cooperation.
  • Consider your building’s current IAQ status — pinpointing problem areas — evaluating IAQ complaints and facility operations that affect or harm IAQ.
  • Switch to green, environmentally preferable cleaning products that release fewer volatile organic compounds into the air.
  • Implement Green Cleaning systems, including the use of other Green Cleaning products and equipment beyond just chemicals, such as high-performing matting and high-filtration vacuum cleaners.
  • Encourage building occupants to use environmentally preferable cleaning products and procedures when they care for their own desks and workstations.
  • Keep the building dry to prevent build-up of mold, mildew and fungi.
  • Remove barriers that restrict heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) air flow in or out of the building.
  • Monitor HVAC systems and change filters regularly.
  • When necessary, work with consultants to determine what steps you can take to rectify and/or prevent IAQ problems and incorporate these steps to improve IAQ.
  • Develop a long-term IAQ monitoring program.
  • Keep detailed records of when or how IAQ problems develop over the course of time and what steps are taken to address the issues.
  • Evaluate the entire IAQ program on a regular basis, and make changes if warranted.

Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in greening the cleaning process. He can be reached by calling (812) 332-7950 or visiting