In today’s modern world you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that on average most of us typically spend around 90% of our time indoors, either in the workplace, at home, or at school, college or university. Spending so much of our time indoors can potentially have an impact on our health and well-being so it’s important to ensure that the overall indoor air quality – the air we and others breathe is not polluted with unwanted contaminants that may cause harm.
Indoor Air Pollutants
As the air from outside enters our homes and workplaces it can bring with it unwanted pollutants that can have a detrimental effect on our health. Additionally, such internal environments can also contain sources of indoor air pollution which can come from things like chemical cleaning products, cooking equipment, central heating boilers, together with biological contaminants including bacteria, moulds, spores and dust mites.
With today’s modern, heavily insulated, energy efficient office buildings or in homes that suffer with poor ventilation or low air exchange rates, these indoor air pollutants can build-up over time to reach levels that could potentially pose a risk to the health of the buildings occupants.
Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace
Indoor air quality in the workplace as well as in schools, hospitals, shops, hotels etc. is carefully regulated by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive. Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 2002 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to do their best to provide a safe working environment, and that includes indoor air quality.
What about Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?
With the introduction of increasingly stringent energy efficiency standards driven by the Building Regulations and other guidance documents lots of modern or renovated buildings including offices, schools, universities, hotels etc. are now heavily insulated and designed to operate with low indoor air exchange rates making them virtually airtight. Typically windows are sealed shut and the supply of indoor air is carefully controlled by sophisticated building management systems (BMS), HVAC air conditioning and space heating systems.
Occupants of such airtight buildings have been known to suffer from a variety of health related issues which are often referred to as “Sick Building Syndrome” or SBS. Common symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome can include a stuffy or runny nose, dry throat, tight chest, sore eye, headache, dry skin and a general feeling of lethargy.
Wood Burners, Open Fires and Indoor Air Quality
Wood burners and open fires are making a come-back and many home owners are installing them or reinstating hidden or existing fireplaces. If you have an open fireplace and want to use it, or are thinking of opening up an old hearth it is essential that you have the chimney flue properly inspected to ensure it operates correctly.
The chimney flue should remove fumes efficiently, it should be free from any blockages and correctly sealed so it does not allow fumes to leak or escape into other rooms. The chimney must also be swept regularly to avoid the risk of chimney fires or blockages. This is also important for enclosed appliances like wood burners and biomass heaters.
You should also recognise that open fires often create significant amounts of unwanted dirt and dust in the home environment and this can reduce overall indoor air quality. In addition to having your chimney flue inspected and swept regularly, you should also ensure good ventilation to rooms that contain open fires.
Expert Indoor Air Testing & Environmental Assessment
The healthier the environment in your office, school, university or other location is, the healthier the people in that environment will be. It is only by identifying the causes of poor indoor air quality that an improved working or living environment can be achieved.
World Class Indoor Air Quality Testing Solutions
WTS are a leading independent UK water, air, energy and environmental services company offering expert environmental management solutions including professional indoor air testing and full support services.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained engineers, site service specialists and technical experts we can offer water management solutions across the whole of the UK.
Contact WTS today to discuss how an indoor air quality assessment could improve the quality of your working or home environments… contact us →
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