5 Ways to Improve Workplace Indoor Air Quality, Reduce Harmful Effects

Air pollution levels can be up to five times bigher than those found outdoors

WILMINGTON, MA () - If "allergy season" seems to arrive earlier every spring, the problem may not be outdoors with Mother Nature, but with the quality of the air inside your workplace.

EPA studies show that indoor air pollution levels can routinely be up to five times higher than those found outdoors as a result of contaminants from tracked-in soil, chemical-laden cleaning products, inefficient or unmaintained heating and cooling systems, and the like.

In the short-term, poor indoor air quality can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and fatigue. Over the long-term, however, medical authorities say it can contribute to asthma, lung disease, cancer, and even damage to the neurological system.

Here are 5 ways to improve the air quality within your home or workplace:

  1. Place "scraper" floor mats outside entranceways to remove soiling from shoes, and place walk-off carpeted mats just inside entrances to capture any residual particulates. And all mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure their effectiveness. Adam Soreff of UniFirst, a company that provides business uniforms and facility cleanliness products to businesses throughout North America, points out: "When utilizing scraper and walk off mats as part of a 'system,' the combination can trap up to 80% of the dirt coming in from foot traffic."
  2. Mop floors after vacuuming to remove any contaminants left behind. Technologically advanced microfiber mops and dusting cloths, in particular, can capture more soiling than traditional cotton products…and without the use of potentially harmful cleaning solutions. An EPA study conducted for the healthcare industry found that microfiber cleaning can remove up to 98% of contaminants from surfaces using only water.
  3. Have furnaces, heating and cooling equipment cleaned periodically to prevent gas build-up/discharge; regularly replace filters to help avoid harmful particles from circulating throughout your place of work.
  4. Regularly use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help eliminate common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Dr. David Lang of the Cleveland Clinic notes that dander, for example, clings to clothing and can be easily spread.
  5. Use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to keep indoor humidity in the 30-50% range — a level that helps keep mold, dust mites, and other allergens at bay.

Dr. Philip Landrigan, the Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, recommends that wall-to-wall carpets be avoided since they can easily house dirt, dust mites, molds, and pesticide residues—all of which can trigger potential asthmatic and allergic reactions. Instead, Dr. Landrigan says smaller areas rugs that can be regularly washed should be used, this also allows floors underneath to be mopped.

Ironically, as people have become more environmentally conscious in recent years, the threat to indoor air quality levels has increased, says UniFirst's Soreff. "Business buildings today are sealed much tighter to keep interior air cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The downside is that this can also lock-in contaminants. The basic lesson for every health-minded person is to keep attuned to the quality of the air you breathe—no matter the season."

About UniFirst

UniFirst (NYSE: UNF), a North American leader in the supply and servicing of uniforms, workwear, and protective clothing, outfits more than 1.5 million workers each business day. The company's most popular brands include UniWeave®, SofTwill®, UniWear®, and Armorex FR®. UniFirst also offers Facility Service Programs including floor mats, mops, and restroom products. For more information, contact UniFirst at 800-455-7654 or visit www.unifirst.com.

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