Pollutants and Modern Building Materials

Many things contribute towards air conditioning systems being fit for purpose. Here we look at some of the obstacles with modern building materials that offer challenges for high quality indoor air.

Over the past twenty years, there have been two trends in construction. These trends have put significant stresses on indoor environments. Firstly, buildings are much tighter these days as construction methods are energy conscious and modern building materials such as drywall, insulation, and plywood along with tight fitting doors and windows all contribute to a fairly impenetrable environment.

The second trend is the use of synthetic building materials. These have increased in use to include synthetic carpets, plastics, wood composites, sealants, adhesives, and finishes. These factors along with the wide variety of cleaning products, office stationery, products, fibres, and chemicals from office machinery provide most workplaces with ample amounts of airborne chemicals, many of which have not been well studied, either alone or in combinations with other types. Some leading indoor air-quality authorities refer to this unknown mix of airborne compounds as “chemical soup.”

Individuals with allergies, asthma, or strong chemical sensitivities have been noticeably worse since building methods have produced tighter, sealed workspaces.

On average, levels of around twelve common organic pollutants were found to be two to five times higher inside buildings than outside, irrespective of location. Since the average person spends seven to eight hours a day in a place of work, studies concluded that health risks from the indoor environment pose a greater risk to most people than outdoor air pollution.

No environment indoors or outdoors is 100% free of hazardous materials, many of which (like radon, asbestos, and airborne particulates) occur naturally in the environment.

For some indoor air pollutants, like radon, scientists have a precise understanding of the health effects and recognize that that no exposure level is safe. However, the cost of reducing the indoor radon level to zero (below outdoor levels) would be prohibitive for most people, so “cost-effective” solutions that balance costs against perceived health risks are used.

Many outside sources of air pollution can impact on indoor air quality under different conditions including airborne pollen, dust, or fungal (mould) spores; The levels of these particles in outdoor air and thus potentially in indoor air vary widely by season, proximity to source, and building air handling and ventilation equipment design and use. Industrial emissions, vehicle emissions particularly near roads, urban centres, and locations where vehicles may have the engine left on such as loading bays.

How much a business invests in clean indoor air is a matter of personal choice and budget but with good planning, a great deal can be accomplished for a modest investment. This investment in air conditioning systems is beneficial for the occupants and good maintenance will ensure your air conditioning inspections will be trouble free.

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