As we go about our daily lives, we are all exposed to a variety of health risks. Driving a car, flying in a plane, participating in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all carry some risks. Some dangers are unavoidable. Some of them we choose to accept because refusing to would limit our ability to live our lives as we wish. Some risks, on the other hand, are ones we might choose to avoid if we had the opportunity to do so. The dirtiest spots in your office or building can often go unnoticed, posing serious health risks. A growing body of scientific evidence has shown that the air inside homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the air outside even in the largest and most industrialized cities in recent years. According to other studies, people spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. As a result, for many people, the health risks associated with indoor air pollution may be greater than those associated with outdoor air pollution.
Many office buildings are significant sources of air pollution. Some of these structures may be under-ventilated. Mechanical ventilation systems, for example, may not be designed or operated to provide sufficient amounts of outside air. Finally, people in offices generally have less control over the indoor environment than they do at home. As a result, the number of people reporting health problems has increased. Commonly found office pollutants and their sources include environmental tobacco smoke; asbestos from insulating and fire-retardant building supplies; formaldehyde from pressed wood products; other organics from building materials, carpet, and other office furnishings, cleaning materials and activities, restroom air fresheners, paints, adhesives, copying machines, and photography and print shops; biological contaminants from dirty ventilation systems or water-damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets; and pesticides from pest management practices.
Mechanical ventilation systems in large buildings are designed and operated to draw in and circulate outdoor air as well as heat and cool the air. Ventilation systems, on the other hand, can contribute to indoor air quality issues in a variety of ways if they are poorly designed, operated, or maintained. Problems arise, for example, when ventilation systems are not used to bring in adequate amounts of outdoor air to save energy. If the air supply and return vents within each room are blocked or placed in such a way that outdoor air does not reach the breathing zone of building occupants, inadequate ventilation occurs. Air contaminated by automobile and truck exhaust, boiler emissions, dumpster fumes, or air vented from restrooms can be drawn in through improperly placed outdoor air intake vents. Finally, ventilation systems can spread biological contaminants that have multiplied in cooling towers, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air conditioners, or the inside surfaces of ventilation ductwork, resulting in indoor pollution.
Indoor air pollutants can be transported from specialized areas of a building, such as restaurants, print shops, and dry-cleaning stores, to offices within the same structure. Carbon monoxide and other components of automobile exhaust can be drawn into office spaces via stairwells and elevator shafts from underground parking garages. Furthermore, buildings that were built for a specific purpose may be converted into office space. The room partitions and ventilation system, if not properly modified during building renovations, can contribute to indoor air quality problems by restricting air recirculation or providing an insufficient supply of outdoor air.
Legionnaires' disease, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and humidifier fever are just a few of the well-known illnesses that have been linked to specific building issues. Building-related illnesses are what they're called. Although most of these diseases are treatable, some pose serious risks.
Sick building syndrome is a phenomenon in which building occupants experience symptoms that do not fit the pattern of any specific illness and are difficult to trace to a specific source. Dry or burning mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, and throat; sneezing; stuffy or runny nose; fatigue or lethargy; headache; dizziness; nausea; irritability and forgetfulness are some of the symptoms that people may experience. Poor lighting, noise, vibration, thermal discomfort, and psychological stress can all contribute to or cause these symptoms.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to these health issues. In some cases, problems start as soon as employees walk into their offices and end as soon as they leave; in other cases, symptoms persist until the illness is treated. Sometimes there are outbreaks of illness among many workers in a single building; in other cases, health symptoms show up only in individual workers.
So the bottom line is that your HVAC system's air filter is the first line of defense against poor indoor air quality. The filter is circulated through a typical central heating and cooling system at a rate of over 1,000 cubic feet per minute. This means that the entire volume of air in your building is passed through the filter several times a day. Airborne particulates, ranging from dust to invisible microscopic particles, are effectively removed by a clean filter. A dirty filter, on the other hand, can deteriorate the quality of your indoor air by acting as a reservoir for dirt, dust, and other airborne contaminants that are constantly recirculated back into your lungs. Your air handler will have to work harder to compensate for the airflow blockage if your air filter is clogged. Reduced airflow through your heating and cooling system can cause your heat exchanger to overheat and shut off too quickly, in addition to driving up your utility bill.