Easy Ways to Control Common Indoor Allergens in the Office
People who work in an office environment can be exposed to indoor allergens in more ways than might be immediately apparent. From a professional standpoint, there are several steps that can be taken to help control indoor allergens at work.
Indoor Allergens in the Office
Office workers may be exposed to allergens from different materials and equipment inside the office, as well as from outdoor sources and their colleagues’ homes. Some of the most common indoor allergens found in the office include:
- Dust and dust mites
- Mold and mold spores
- Insect and rodent droppings
- Volatile organic compounds emitted from paints, solvents, carpets, furniture and equipment
- Cleaning products
- Perfumes and colognes
- Second-hand smoke
- Ozone from copiers, fax machines and other equipment
- Vehicle exhaust from outside the building
- Pet dander brought in on other employees’ clothes
Common Allergy Symptoms
Allergens in the office can significantly affect employee health, comfort and productivity. In more severe cases, exposure to indoor allergens can lead to absenteeism related to health issues. In response to allergen exposure, an office-based employee may experience:
- Drowsiness or sleepiness that may interfere with their ability to concentrate, stay on task, pay attention in meetings, or simply function productively.
- Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, or other symptoms that can create physical discomfort, disruptions for other employees and general malaise.
- Itchy eyes, nasal passages and mucous membranes that can affect physical comfort, the ability to speak and the ability to see clearly.
Controlling Indoor Allergens
A professional response to indoor allergen control may include one or more of the following actions:
- Performing HVAC system maintenance: Regular preventive maintenance on your building’s HVAC system can make a significant change to your indoor air quality. Maintenance should include changing HVAC air filters, which are the first line of defense in removing allergens and particulates from indoor air. Maintenance can also help your HVAC equipment run better and at its most efficient to maintain good indoor humidity levels and air quality.
- Installing an air filtration or purification system: An air filtration or purification system can be added to your HVAC equipment to provide even better indoor air cleaning. These devices are installed so that all the air flowing through the HVAC system also flows through the high-quality filters inside the air cleaners or purifiers. If needed, you can add filtration systems that can remove almost all particulates and fumes from your indoor environment.
- Installing a ventilation system: A whole-building ventilation system can also dramatically improve indoor air quality and remove allergens by venting away stale indoor air and bringing in fresh outdoor air. Energy-recovery ventilators are available that recycle some of the energy you’ve already used to heat and cool air by also heating or cooling incoming fresh air, depending on the season.
- Inspecting and sealing HVAC ductwork: Broken seals or loose connections in your building’s ductwork can allow particulates, contaminants and allergens to enter the airflow pathway, ending up in your indoor work environment. Your ductwork should be inspected to ensure that all sections fit tightly together and are mechanically fastened with bolts, screws, or rivets. Connections should also be sealed with mastic, a specialized sealant used on ductwork.
- Improving the building’s seal: The seal of your building refers to how airtight the structure is, which can affect whether or not allergens from outside the structure can easily get inside. Gaps, cracks, holes and other openings in the building’s frame, around doors and windows and at other points in the structure, can let conditioned air out, while also letting in allergens and particulates. Gaps and openings should be sealed properly with caulking or another material.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on identifying, locating, and controlling indoor allergens in an office setting, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!