This article originally appeared in IMPO's June 2015: Net Gain issue.
Thinking about air pollution often brings to mind images of smokestacks belching thick smoke, but according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, indoor levels of air pollutants can be two to five times higher, and occasionally 100 times higher, than outdoor levels. Indoor air may be polluted with dust, allergens, formaldehyde, fire retardants and radon.
Enhancing indoor air quality through better cleaning practices and equipment can improve employees’ health, and improve the overall experience for visitors to your facility. Some cleaning products, including those containing ammonia, as well as some paints and floor finishes, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Fragrances and scents used in conventional cleaning chemicals also often contain volatile chemicals.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, 95 percent of the ingredients in fragrances are derived from petroleum. Petroleum-derived ingredients found in fragrances include a number of highly toxic substances such as toluene, acetone, phthalates and derivatives of benzene.
To reduce VOCs in your facility, choose low-emitting cleaning products that have been third-party certified by reputable organizations. Minimize or eliminate the use of harsh cleaners, solvent-based cleaners or cleaners with strong fragrances. Carefully read labels to determine if cleaning products are fragrance-free, and avoid “scent free” products, as these may contain masking fragrances.
People with asthma and allergies can be especially sensitive to indoor air pollutants. Employees, including janitorial staff, who are subjected to long-term, repeated exposure to fragrances, can experience serious health issues.
Chemical-free floor scrubbing technologies are odor neutral and don’t contain fragrances that can affect those with asthma or other respiratory ailments. These technologies can replace many conventional floor cleaning chemicals – and eliminate their fragrances – while providing excellent cleaning results that will keep your plant safe and productive.
Scrubbers with easy-to-clean solution and recovery tanks minimize the risk of scrubber tank odors, mold and bacteria growth. This further improves air quality and reduces risks to your employees. Minimizing airborne dust also improves indoor air quality and overall cleanliness by preventing dust from settling on floors and other flat surfaces. Improving the overall cleanliness of your facility will enhance health and safety, and improve manufacturing processes and productivity.
Choose a powerful sweeper with a high performance dry dust control system that improves air quality while sweeping manufacturing areas. Preventing airborne particulates will keep your employees healthier. In office areas, vacuums equipped with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters improve indoor air quality by capturing fine dust rather than dispersing it into the air. Vacuums with true HEPA filters reduce the amount of airborne particulates so employees and visitors can breathe easier.
Advanced carpet cleaners featuring microfiber technology use 80 percent less water than traditional carpet cleaning technologies, so carpets are clean, dry and ready to use in less than 30 minutes. Using less water and leaving up to 90 percent less water in the carpet compared to traditional carpet cleaning also reduces the potential for mold and odors.
Chemical-free floor stripping and refinishing further reduce chemical smells, and enable floor maintenance to be performed anytime without odors disturbing employees and visitors. This allows greater flexibility in scheduling floor maintenance and makes it easier to always keep your facility looking great.
A better alternative is to select a flooring system that provides environmental advantages and emits less VOCs than stripping and waxing. Eliminating the need to buff or strip and wax floors enhances indoor air quality and keeps stripping chemicals from the water treatment system. Installing a flooring system with environmental advantages may also qualify for LEED points.
Better air quality enhances employee health and productivity, and makes your manufacturing facility more accessible to those with asthma, allergies and other health problems related to poor indoor air quality. Employees and visitors will experience a safer and healthier environment thanks to improved indoor air quality.