Monthly Archives: June 2014

IAQ Concerns at a Medical Building

 

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Indoor air quality in any medical building is very important because you have to take into consideration the health of many patients. The healthcare industry has strict procedures for hospitals and medical offices in order to create a healthy and comfortable environment for everyone inside the building. Recently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a health evaluation report for a medical office building. Employees working at the medical office building were concerned about the indoor air quality in the building. In addition, also concerned about being exposed to hydrogen sulfide,which is a component of sewer gas. This incident and concern is a health hazard for the employees and the rest of the staff who work in the medical office building. The concern started when employees kept smelling sewer gas odors and complaint about the odors.

Several steps were taken in order to pin point the issues. NIOSH measured hydrogen sulfide through out the building, inspected the buildings HVAC system, temperature, humidity levels, and measured carbon dioxide in the building. NIOSH found several problems in the buildings ventilation system and the carbon dioxide concentrations were above the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines who focus on the building systems for the human well being using sustainable technology. Once NIOSH found out what the problem was, building management took action and drain tap devices were installed on all floor drains, HVAC components were inspected and repaired, sewer lines were repaired and manholes were sealed and replaced with rain guard devices.

As a result, odor complaints decreased in the medical building. This was a important example of why it is important to be alert of your work environment and let others know when you are concern about the indoor air quality in your environment. We are strong advocates of building and sustaining a healthy indoor environment for many industries. At Airtek, we have been creating cleaner, healthier and more energy-efficient indoor environments for 25 years. We have several solutions for the healthcare industry. Airtek provides indoor air quality management, preventative maintenance solutions, and portable containment products for airborne particulates, infection control, and bio-security.

HVAC Cleaning: Spend Some, Save Some

Summertime sun means summertime heat. And summertime heat means that you might need to turn on the air conditioning in your office longer than usual if you want to stay cool. But keep in mind, regardless of how good or new your air conditioning system is, you’ll end up wasting untold electricity (and money!) if your air ducts aren’t in good shape. This is why the start of the summer is a prime opportunity to have your HVAC air ducts thoroughly cleaned by a professional service.

More Than Meets The Eye: What’s Really Going on Inside of Those Ducts
There is a common misconception that if air ducts pass the eye test or ear test – meaning, if you don’t see or hear anything in side of the ducts – that they are clear. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the things that can be found inside the twisty system of air ducts, such as mold, pollution build up, mildew, and other types of allergens, are never seen or heard by the people living and working in the building. In fact, only a professional can assess whether or not the air ducts need cleaning.

Dust and Debris: What Comes Out Is Also Within
Most people notice that the screens on the vent filters at the end of any HVAC system are dirty. If that’s the type of material that’s visible and coming out of the vents, just imagine what’s going on inside the ducts. A few of the common things found circulating within a heating and cooling system are:

  • Dust
  • Hair
  • Pollen
  • Dander
  • Chemicals and general air pollutants

Inside the system, those things can become caked along the walls and slowly restrict air flow. If the ventilation system is like the lungs of your office, dust and debris within are like asthma, slowly tightening the bronchial tract and making the air flow difficult.

Mold and Mildew: They Are Quite At Home in Your HVAC System
Heating and cooling systems can form an extensive network of ducts that deliver air to multiple rooms. Apart from the area found at the opening of the vents, this network is dark internally. This lack of light coupled with the fact that these systems can naturally trap moisture inside, result in the possibility that mold and mildew could be quietly lingering inside the HVAC system.

This mold can cause allergic reactions if it spreads throughout the system and exits through the vents. On the other hand, there are substances that can appear inside of air ducts that look like mold, but are not. Only a professional would be able to correctly identify the substance through testing. This is another reason why a simple eye test can be misleading.

The Creepy Crawlies: If It’s Small and It Crawls, It Might Be in Your Vents
For humans, navigating into and around an air duct would be a claustrophobic and uncomfortable task. For bugs and animals, the ducts are a swift, convenient passageway through a building. It’s often shocking the creatures that can enter the air ducts:

  • Bees
  • Spiders
  • Flies
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Birds
  • Raccoons
  • Possums

Lots of creatures find their way into the vents and leave the gifts of fur, dander and waste… and that’s assuming they make it out alive.

The Impact: It Adds Unnecessary Costs
The impact of improperly maintained, unclean air system shows up as a HVAC system that runs inefficiently. It must work harder to cut through all that build-up and clutter in order to reach the desired temperature, which adds costs to your company’s electricity bill and leads to wasting energy overall. It also means that your air conditioning system will undergo additional strain while trying to maintain its output which shortens the life of your system.

Stay Proactive this Summer
Rather than wait until your HVAC system is struggling to circulate air, make it a point to have regular air duct cleanings. In the long run, it will save you money and energy. And if nothing else, it guarantees that you and your colleagues will enjoy clean, healthy, non-polluted air.

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Microbiome and the Design of Buildings

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Image Source: blog.shawnielsen.com

Air Quality is becoming an important factor for many individuals. Those who design buildings are also taking into consideration how important air quality has become for the population. We have many micro biomes on our body, in our body and around us. The bacteria that we have helps us fight and deal with pollutants that we encounter everyday inside buildings and in our homes. Having a deeper understanding of micro biomes and how our organism deals with pollution can help those design better buildings.

An article by Fast Code Design talks about how architecture can play a key role in pin pointing which types of bacteria are good for our health. The article states, “We can design buildings to influence the types of bacteria. Instead of just sterilizing the environment, we’ll actually manage our buildings in a more sensible way.” By doing so, architects can design buildings with natural or mechanical ventilation to cultivate certain types of bacteria communities, which in the long run can help fight indoor pollutants. The human micro biome has been in the news lately as researchers have began to unravel and study how the design of a room influences microbiome.  The LEED system has current certifications for green buildings that sustain better indoor environment for people and energy efficiency. What are your thoughts on microbiomes and the design of buildings based on human microbiomes. Can it help indoor air quality? Let us know what your opinion is. You may also watch an indoor air quality video based on this topic by the Indoor Air Quality Association.

Lots of Events in June!

And it’s not over yet! We have so many events to report on, this post is going to have to be one of a series. We thought you might like to see what we have been up to!

We began the month at the San Diego Insurance Adjusters Association’s annual Golf Tournament. It was a gorgeous day!

We spent some time with the California Society for Healthcare Engineering talking about waterborne pathogens in healthcare settings–a fascinating subject!

We had lunch with the East Bay Claims Association and heard a great presentation about Foundation Failure from Kurt Ahlich of Rimkus Consulting Group.

Last of many June events for this edition, we gave a presentation to 9 branches of Dewey Pest Control about how to find and deal with a bed bug infestation. Check out our training center bedroom! Not to mention “Cajun,” the bed bug sniffing dog!

These are only a few of the events taking place this first month of summer! We have more golf and other fun activities coming up this month and for the rest of the summer, too. Watch for more next week!

And if you want to hear all about what we have going on more often, Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter! We would love to see you there!

HVAC System: Repair or Replace

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(Image Source:bakermechanical.com)

Having an air conditioner break down and especially break down during the summer can be a nightmare. When your air conditioning or heating system fails there are two factors you need to take into consideration: Repair or replace your unit. You also need to take into consideration the efficiency and current condition of the unit. Considering the age of the unit is important as well. If a unit break downs sometimes the parts are discontinued which can become more expensive if not unavailable to find. Depending on how well the unit was regularly maintain can play a factor in deciding whether you want to repair or replace your HVAC unit.

Repairing your unit may be the less expensive route but it can become more expensive down the road. If your unit is old, breaks down and consumes energy it may be time to replace your unit. When replacing your unit, it is important to replace the air handling so that the two units match your outdoor unit for maximum efficiency.  It matching the units can shorten the life span of your system. If the system has hit the 10 year mark, upgrading to an EnergySTAR air conditioning cooling system that meets the 2006 EPA regulation can save you up to 30% on your cooling costs due to the efficiency boost. You may contact an HVAC specialist to inspect the unit and assess its current condition.

Once you have done all this and done your research on expenses and what would be the best decision, select a contractor that will be able to work a future plan and a maintenance plan for your HVAC unit.If your HVAC system is not working to properly ventilate your environment, Air-Tek can be of assistance and provide you indoor air quality services.In addition, if you have any questions regarding your HVAC system we can be of assistance. You may contact your local Air-Tek office for more information.

Right now is the era of DIY’s (Do it Yourself) and many people love creating their own things and find different alternative to find a solution for a lesser price. In some things, DIY’s are fun to do. Other things are not fun and should be left to professionals.

Air Quality When Traveling

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My family just returned from a trip to the UK and while I was gone, I saw quite a few people in London wearing face masks–I assume they were for the poor London air quality–and spent many hours on international airliners. Now I wonder if there was anything I should have done to protect myself and my kids from airborne pollutants or pathogens. Let’s find out! News reports about a smog crisis in London were everywhere this spring. “London pollution as bad as Beijing!” headlines screamed. Yes, London did have high levels of air pollution this spring and they are doing things to prevent it happening again, but it is not the everyday situation. Pollution levels on a particularly awful air quality day were compared to a particularly good air quality day in Beijing, alarming many unnecessarily. I think we were okay without masks–and the weather was incredible! What about those long airplane rides? There is a new film being released about Aerotoxic Syndrome, which reports “Dr. Susan Michaelis’s PhD research completed in 2010 found high rates of neurological, respiratory diseases and cancers amongst aircrew having been exposed to the contaminated air environment.” Hmmm. Most of what we are reading applies to the constant exposure that flight attendants and pilots would have, not passengers. Actually, airplanes have HEPA filters cleaning the air so although it feels different–very dry–it’s okay for a typical person. Of course we have all heard stories about people getting sick after airplane flights, but that is due more to close quarters with sick or incubating fellow passengers and lack of hand washing than air quality. Not much we can do about who we sit next to, but more handwashing is always in order. I haven’t come down with anything so far and we all had a wonderful time in the UK, great weather and clear skies. Hope you are having a lovely summer so far, as well!

HVAC Quick Tips:Keeping Your House Cool This Summer

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Summer has peaked up on us early this year.There are times when it is too hot to be outside and why not stay cool at home.One quick solution is to turn on our air conditioning systems.In addition, we wanted to share with you some tips on keeping your house cooler this summer. If you will be using your home’s central air conditioning system you want to make sure that you have done regular maintenance. You will pay a lot less to your monthly electricity bill and the system itself will last longer.

When you hire a certified HVAC professional they will help your HVAC system work a little smoother,hence keep your house cooler. Part of the maintenance will be to repair sealed areas, clean the coils and adjust the blower and refrigerant. Another tip to keep your home cooler is to replace your systems air filters. When the air filters are dirty, your system work extra harder to keep your home cool. Replacing the air filter will not only keep your home cool but prevent dust and particulates from circulating in your environment.

The third tip to keep your house cooler is by replacing your older air conditioner with a newer one. Many are high energy efficient and can cost your energy bill in half. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and air conditioning your home take 45% out of your monthly utility bill. You want to have a more efficient unit to keep your house cool this summer. The worst, is not having a well function air conditioning system when the temperature increases into triple digits. Beat the heat this summer and keep your house cool. If your HVAC system needs a check up, AirTek is an industry leader in the HVAC Industry and provide indoor air solution to create cleaner, healthier and more energy efficient environments.

Hot Weather Means More Asthma

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It’s getting hot here in Southern California and it’s going to get hotter. And it’s usually worse than the meteorologists predict.

Studies reported in the journal Nature, “have linked temperature increases to greater amounts of pollen and mold. These are some of the primary triggers of asthma. This is because asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction. When something such as pollen is inhaled, the person’s airwaves constrict. This makes breathing hard and an inhaler is required to ease the pressure.”

With higher temperatures worldwide comes higher humidity–damp–and what comes with damp? Growth of mold and bacteria. Mold spores and bacteria cause illness, allergies and asthma, which can be deadly.

As temperatures rise worldwide, the risks that come with them increase both in severity and area. It’s hot here, but what if our climate extended into Northern California and beyond, where temperatures are much lower even in the height of summer? What if it weren’t hot in the upper midwest only in August but for an extended period? And combined with humidity from the Great Lakes? They are already getting more snow because of increased moisture in the air in the winter due to climate change.

The Environmental Protection Agency has researched the connection between asthma and climate change and “concluded that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increased rainfall had led to increased levels of pollination. This was driving the constant growth of people suffering from asthma.”

There is no doubt that asthma cases are growing in number in the US and all over the world. Higher levels of particle pollution, continued use of chemicals and cleaners which add volatile organic compounds to our air and our dependence on fossil fuels are certainly factors. But higher temperatures are a valid concern as well.

At AirTek, we are always concerned about healthy indoor and outdoor air. Remember that there are things you can do to reduce your own allergic and asthma symptoms. Choose cleaning products wisely, buy unscented products whenever possible, and keep your indoor air as clean and dry as you can to minimize your risk. If you need help making sure your indoor air is healthy, contact AirTek for a consultation. We are here for you.

 

Kaiser Permanente First in Purchasing Furniture Free from Flame Retardant Chemicals

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Indoor air quality requirements in the health care industry is a delicate matter because the objective for every healthcare facility is to provide a sterile and safe environment for patients. In addition, keep the health and well being of the staff and visitors. Maintaining safe hospital air quality in the entire building involves having a an indoor air quality management plan to reduce air borne particulates. Recently, Healthier Hospitals Initiative shared a press release about Kaiser Permanente Committing in Purchasing Furniture Free from Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals. Kaiser Permanente is the first health system in the country to do this decision.

Flame retardant furniture is unhealthy,pollutes and does not stop fires. Flame retardants can be found in furniture and the chemicals found in furniture have been linked to dangerous side effects. Kaiser Permanente has made the first step in purchasing furniture that does not contain added fire retardant chemicals. The State of California new updated rule states that manufacturers can meet standards without the use of fire retardant chemicals. Kaiser Permanente is known to be a leader in choosing safer alternatives to create healthy environments. This change will begin through out several Kaiser hospitals through out the next year and extend through the next three years. This might be a next step for hospitals and even schools to purchase furniture that has no flame retardants. This is a great solution that will help the indoor air quality and the health of many who work for this organization.

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