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Offices: an air pollution ecosystem

It is true: indoors can be as polluted as outdoors, sometimes even more, and these also apply to offices. What is also true is that we rarely pay attention at just how polluted they are.

“At least it’s clean in the office…”

By now it is firmly stablished that ours is a very contaminated world. Unless we go to the mountain, the desert, or the ocean, there is no way to escape the pollution generated by the dregs of our industry. And even out there, in those wild and pristine environments, there is no guarantee that out-of-control waste won’t show its ugly face to us, as is the case with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the pollution of hills and mountains. No matter what lens we use to see it, there is no way to soften the blow of our modern life in the planet that sustains us.

Of course, these are big questions that most of us only have time to ponder in the hours before sleep, or in the rare occasions when some form of illuminated thought breaks through the noise of our daily activities. For most of us, pollution is a problem that is limited to our immediate space outside our homes: the parks where we do our exercise, the towns where we conduct most of our life, the toxin-rich air that pollutes our skies and makes of breathing in the streets a form of slow suicide. Rarely, however, do we stop to think about just how polluted our houses and offices are.

We think of closed spaces as protection against the dangers outside. There are no wild beasts indoors, nor marauders to do us any harm, yet this bubble of safety bursts the moment air pollution crosses over through the cracks in our doors and windows. Our homes and offices, safe as they might be, are often as bad for our health as the busiest streets of London during rush hour. Not only does air pollution come inside (and stays inside) the moment we try to ventilate our spaces, but we also must deal with the pollution produced by our own built environments.

This isn’t so much by design, as by the chemical properties of current building materials, household appliances and office supplies that degrade through time. Contemporary science is just barely touching on the possibilities of greener methods for constructing buildings and manufacture essential products, so it is still a long way before computers become biodegradable and architects design zero-carbon-footprint buildings that do not sicken office workers through slow material decay.

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Clouds of CO2 in the office

We breathe between 8,000 and 9,000 liters of air per day, and each one of those breaths carries a density of gases both helpful and harmful to our health, including Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and various forms of PM 2.5 particles. Our lungs are the only internal organs exposed directly to indoor and outdoor pollution, so it is no surprise that the result of breathing contaminated air manifests first as respiratory complications.

In the case of an office space (and a household), some of the air pollution comes from the people’s natural breathing processes, which may seem like a kind of contradiction. Biologically produced CO2 is a waste material our bodies exhale after cellular respiration converts oxygen and glucose into energy. We exhale roughly 2.3 pounds of it every day. That’s almost 12 ounces per person in an average nine-to-five job, which may not sound like much, until we factor in the presence of other people in the office, as well as the accumulation of CO2 indoors if the space is not properly ventilated.

But passive ventilation is not always a good solution. Most of the time, opening windows and doors to allow fresh air inis counterproductive. It will take our own CO2 out, but it will also bring traffic and industry polluted air in. Of course, the degree of air pollution that comes inside will depend on the area where our office building is located. If we are near a busy road, an industrial complex, or an airport, we will experience more contamination than an office located up in the hills.

Mechanical ventilation sometimes may look like a good fix, but it has its drawbacks. Usually, these systems reduce concentrations of CO2, pollutants, and humidity, but at a high energetic (and therefore, economic) cost. For the most part, these systems are in the ceiling, which makes them effective against pollutants hanging high in the air, but of little to no consequence to particles located closer to the floor. Not only that, but mechanical ventilation systems are also bulky, rarely come with any filters, and they require obstructive interventions when installed in old buildings, as is the case of many cities in Europe.

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There’s more, right?

Yes, there is. There’s the laundry list of indoor air pollutants created by all the furniture, appliances, carpeting, electronics, and other supplies found inside an office. These products that make a company functional are also carriers of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), a family of hydrocarbons, like benzene and acetone, that evaporate at room temperature and can easily enter our bodies and cause tremendous harm in the long-term. VOCs are used in the manufacture of many consumer products found in any office, like printers, inks, and photocopiers.

They can also be found in glues and plastics, carpets, paints, and flooring boards, as well as in the detergents we use to wash our coffee cups when the working day is done. The paint in our walls has them, and so do the personal care products we apply before going to the office. Of course, deodorants have them, and so do air fresheners. The truth is that no matter where we look, the very infrastructure and tools that make an office work are producers of air pollution.

There’s nothing lighthearted about being exposed to VOCs. A short-term contact with them may eventually cause headaches, irritation of the nose, eyes and throat, nausea and even complication of asthma for those who suffer it. Years-long exposure could lead to liver damage, cancer, and a collapse of the central nervous system.

Last, but definitely not least, we find all the other culprits behind our offices’ poor air quality. All the small particles of dust brought from the outside and generated through material decay, all the hair that is naturally shed by our bodies at all hours. The seasonal pollen, the mold and the spores, viruses and pathogens brought by the workers themselves, dust mites and bacteria of all kinds. What is truly surprising in all of this, is that we aren’t sicker than we already are.

Offices are truly swamps, and we earn our living in the middle of them. They are a complex ecosystem of natural and artificially produced gases that affect our health though years-long concentrations. Sure, things could be much worse, and there are things we can do about to minimize the health impact of VOCs, NO2, PM 2.5 and other indoors air pollutants, but the naked fact remains: office work is bad for your health in more ways than you think.

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AIR8 technology is a good fix

Working from home is becoming a trend these days, but that will not alleviate the burden of our health. The same supplies and construction materials found in offices are found in our homes, so no matter where we go to, air pollution is there with us.

As mentioned a few lines above, passive ventilation is not the best solution to our problem, because it brings outer pollution in. Mechanical ventilation isn’t optimal either, as it is costly and cumbersome, it only recirculates air and it doesn’t get rid of many pollutants at floor level. But what about HEPA-13 filtering technology? That is exactly what we, at AIR8, are experts on.

Our products have been designed to be the perfect solution for any spatial need. We have experience serving various industries that require the cleanest possible breathable air, which is possible thanks to our medical-grade filters. They remove NO2 from any room, as well as PM 2.5 particles, pollen, viruses like Covid-19 and pathogens of all kinds. They all incorporate Activated Carbon, which turns gaseous molecules into a solid state, so that the odors and the presence of VOCs can be filtered away.

You can move our filters from one room to another, as they are light and easy to transport. Unlike mechanical ventilation systems, they are cost end energy economical, make absolutely no noise and will refresh any space they are in. Their filtering range of 1399 ft2 and high CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) make them the most effective product of its kind in the market. Our commitment to a cleaner, healthier, indoors air is sincere, and we keep it always in mind whenever one of our products is shipped off to our customers. Offices may be toxic environments for our health, but that doesn’t mean you cannot do something to correct it. You and your workers will be thankful for it.

 

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