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Eliminate, Ventilate and Isolate: Improving Winter IAQ

Feb. 19, 2013
Taking steps to improve indoor air quality in the winter months can lead to happier, healthier, more productive employees.

Indoor air pollution invariably becomes a much bigger problem during the cold winter months, according to Jennifer Meek, manager of customer service for Enviro-Solutions.   

"This is because we close windows to keep cold air outside,” says Meek.  “Complicating matters, we stay inside so much more this time of year.”

Because of this, Enviro-Solutions, which manufactures “green” cleaning chemicals and products, suggests three ways facility managers can help improve and protect indoor air quality during the cold winter months:  

  • Eliminate: Remove or reduce the amount of chemicals, especially products that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other potential pollutants stored or used in a facility.
  • Ventilate: Open doors and windows as much as possible to help reduce moisture and pollutant levels.
  • Isolate: Separate chemicals that cannot be eliminated from a facility by keeping them away from areas building occupants use.

Meek suggests the best way to eliminate and isolate cleaning chemicals is to conduct a winter weather janitorial closet inventory check. 

“Go through the closet and properly dispose of all [cleaning] chemicals no longer being used; if some products must be stored, find a place for them outside the facility if possible,” Meek suggests. 

"This is also a good time to replace conventional [cleaning] chemicals with equivalents that emit fewer VOCs and pollutants."

Meek emphasizes that proper ventilation especially is important this time of year.  With poor ventilation, airborne pollutants from chemicals including cleaners, adhesives, paints and textiles are more concentrated.  This can result in more sick days and higher absenteeism.

Recent studies by the University of Tulsa’s Indoor Air Program and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory support Meek’s views, finding that when classroom ventilation rates were increased, it helped improve student performance.  

Similar findings were reported in the workplace.  Performance, which was defined in offices as “speed and accuracy,” also improved – often significantly – with enhanced ventilation.

“And, we should also consider indoor temperature,” adds Meek. “These same studies indicate that the best indoor temperature for both student and worker performance is approximately 71 degrees (F).”

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