Common Myths Concerning Office Air Quality

February 9, 2017

Every year new laws are passed in a concerted effort to promote healthier workplace air. As legislators and the EPA work hard to protect the health of workers across the nation, it is important for office employees and management to also make healthy office air a priority. Learn more about common myths concerning office air quality and be proactive in promoting safe and healthy workplace air.

Myth #1 Your sense of smell will alert you to any potential office air problems

While there are a number of office air pollutants that you can detect with your nose, there are hundreds more that you are unable to smell. Your sense of smell may alert you to moldy conditions or secondhand smoke, but there are hundreds of VOCs without a discernable odor. Chemicals such as benzene and phenols, which are classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) by the EPA, are often found in office buildings but can only be detected through comprehensive office air testing. Formaldehyde is another dangerous chemical commonly found in building materials and office furnishings. Exposure to small amounts of formaldehyde can cause eye, nose and throat burning and irritation; nausea; skin rashes; and respiratory difficulties. High concentrations of formaldehyde can trigger asthma attacks. Even though you can’t smell these chemicals, the pose a very serious threat.

Myth #2 Office buildings must sacrifice energy efficiency to optimize ventilation

While older office buildings may incur higher energy costs by trying to maintain adequate ventilation and a comfortable interior temperature and humidity level, there are products available that can increase ventilation without increasing energy costs. Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) or Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) enable air exchange without using excessive amounts of energy. Both types of systems can be used in conjunction with a building’s existing HVAC ductwork or function as individual units. HRVs and ERVs can improve air quality equivalent to opening a window while providing a controlled rate of air exchange for better climate control. Another way that office management can optimize ventilation and increase energy efficiency is by changing out HVAC system filters regularly and having systems inspected by a HVAC professional annually.

Myth #3 One person cannot harm the overall air quality of an office

Although it seems difficult to envision one person being responsible for hazardous levels of toxins and chemicals in your office air, sometimes all it takes is one offender. Do you have a coworker that uses excessive amounts of fragranced products, hand sanitizers, chemical cleansers, or that smokes? Each individual can introduce a number of office air pollutants into your workplace air. You and your coworkers may be bringing in pet dander, third hand cigarette smoke, and numerous VOCs found in commonly used products. These pollutants can have a negative impact on the overall quality of your office air.