What Are the Most Common Causes of Poor Office Air Quality?

October 2, 2015

According to the U. S. Government’s Consumer Products Safety Commission, there are three main reasons for poor workplace air quality inside office buildings. Protect your health by learning how you can identify potentially hazardous conditions contaminating your office air.

#1 Indoor Air Pollutants

The most common cause of poor air quality in offices is the presence of pollutants. These pollutants can come from chemical or biological sources.

  • Older office buildings may contain asbestos from insulation or fire-retardant building materials.
  • The adhesives used in pressed wood furniture and laminate flooring often contain formaldehyde.
  • Cleaning solutions contain hazardous chemicals that pose a threat to your health.
  • Paints and air fresheners contain chemicals that have been linked to serious health problems.
  • Copiers and printers produce toxic chemical fumes that accumulate in enclosed spaces.

Mold is the most common biological contaminant present inside of office buildings. Mold spores grow in places where there is water damage or excessive moisture accumulation and can be carried throughout an office building through ventilation systems. Asthma and allergy symptoms are often a result of exposure to mold.

#2 Inadequate Ventilation Systems

Ventilation systems in office buildings are not only designed to heat and cool the air coming into an office building but also to circulate air. It is important to have adequate air flow throughout a building and to make sure the air intake vents are properly located to avoid drawing in polluted air (e.g., nearby exhaust vents or loading dock areas). Dirty ventilation systems can spread contaminants throughout an office building. Buildings without windows to open for ventilation must have an efficient system in place in order to maintain adequate air circulation.

#3 Poor Building Design and Renovations

Many buildings have been designed to house several offices or to combine residential tenants and offices in the same building. Air pollutants can circulate from one portion of the building to another. Dry-cleaning shops use harsh chemicals in their cleaning products that can make their way into other offices via the ventilation system. Hair and nail salons use chemical products that are  hazardous when inhaled. Carbon monoxide fumes from automobile exhaust can contaminate airflow from underground parking garages through stairwells and elevator shafts into office spaces.

Many buildings undergo renovations in order to accommodate changing occupancy. Residences may be converted into mixed use office spaces or for commercial uses. If these renovations are not carried out properly, these buildings may have inadequate ventilation.

Poor office air quality can result in a number of health problems and illnesses for occupants. Symptoms may range from mild to severe depending upon the level of contamination and the sources. An Office Air Check Test will identify the pollutants present in your building and the level of contamination.