Study Examines the Effects “Sick Building Syndrome”
Poor ventilation is a common problem in many offices and can lead to a series of negative health outcomes, including decreased productivity and headaches.
Riverdale, NJ — According to a study conducted by researchers at Purdue University in Indiana, certain airborne pollutants (which is where odors come from) can build up to dangerous levels in offices, so much so that they can affect worker health and productivity.
After studying an office environment for a month, the research team found that high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be generated by people simply by being in an enclosed environment. VOC emissions associated with humans and human activity include breath and sweat, as well as clothing, cosmetics, hair products, and deodorant.
According to researcher Brandon Boor, one issue creating poor office indoor air quality comes from inadequate ventilation. If an office space isn’t well ventilated, VOCs are unable to escape outside and accumulate indoors, affecting the health and productivity of employees as a result.
To monitor air quality, the team installed thousands of sensors in an office inside Purdue University’s Living Labs, along with an instrument called The Nose, which was designed to track levels of ozone (O3), carbon dioxide (CO2), aerosols, and VOCs.
The study found that the more people there were in a room, the higher the concentration of VOCs in the air. Additionally, the study found that levels of VOCs were up to 20 times higher indoors than outdoors and that proper ventilation was instrumental in exhausting these pollutants outside.
Studies have associated VOCs with health issues ranging from minor conditions like eye strain, throat irritation, and colds, to something more serious, like cancer. For offices, the most common manifestations of prolonged VOC exposure include problems with concentrating and productivity loss. Whatever the case, offices can benefit from commercial air filters that remove VOCs and other airborne pollutants from enclosed environments.
According to Miriam Diamond, a professor in the earth sciences department at the University of Toronto, the lack of ventilation increases the risk of indoor air pollution. As today’s employees spend more time indoors than ever, it has never been more important to ensure that they’re breathing clean and safe air.
“Sick building syndrome,” a condition caused by poor ventilation, is characterized by symptoms ranging from headache and stuffy nose to general discomfort. However, opening the windows to let stale indoor air out and fresh outdoor air inside can be impractical if the building is in an area with high levels of outdoor air pollution such as buildings near freeways, construction sites, or industrial zones.
“High-efficiency air filters (MERV 13/13A or higher) are designed to capture and remove a higher ratio of particles from the airstream that are harmful to human health,” says Camfil’s Kevin Wood.
When choosing to upgrade to high-efficiency air filters or add air purifiers with molecular filters, it’s best to consult a qualified air filtration professional. High-efficiency commercial air and molecular filters have operational requirements that may necessitate adjustments to your system. Avoid the temptation of installing cheap bargain filters in an attempt to address the issue. High-quality filters are your solution to assist with providing cleaner indoor air and wiser investment of your dollars. If a product is too good to be true, it most likely is.
For 50 years, Camfil USA has built commercial air filtration systems for commercial buildings and offices. Talk to our air filtration expert near your location today to learn more about our line of air filter solutions.
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