The air that we breathe is now under more scrutiny than ever as institutions such as the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and environmental agency Friends of the Earth warn of dire consequences for public health if air pollution is not more strictly controlled.
Last year, the RCP claimed that air pollution was directly responsible for some 40,000 early deaths each year in the UK. Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth reported that more than 800 educational institutions in London were exposing children and young people to illegal levels of air pollution.
The main pollutants that have a direct impact on our ability to breathe clean air include nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, lead, and carbon monoxide. Our health and well-being during each working day – in offices, schools, hospitals etc – is directly affected by how harmful these pollutants are in our buildings.
To achieve decent indoor air quality there needs to be an inspection of a building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. HVAC systems are responsible for cooling and/or heating residential and commercial buildings. It’s a split system that has components inside and outside a room, heating and cooling air when appropriate for the climatic conditions.
As it filters clean air around a building, the HVAC system has a bearing on how pollutants are distributed and removed. As a result, these HVAC systems can be the sources of pollutants; for example, when ventilation air filters are contaminated with dirt or stagnant water occurs from drip pans they result in microbiological growth.
It’s up to the management of a building to make sure building ventilation, including installing and maintaining HVAC systems, is conforming to health and safety rules. It’s no surprise that, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the failure to use or install these devices properly is a common problem and one that crops up time and again during HSE inspections.
A regular concern is when the HVAC system contaminates the air, including circulating bacteria and mould, from manufacturing parts; while debris and dust are spread from electronic equipment such as printers and computers. These hazards can blow-out across the entire business premises. Failure to act on this often results in a wholesale change of an office or building at great expense to the business.
By installing up-to-date HVAC systems around a building, business owners and managers will need to instigate a heating, ventilation and air conditioner unit policy. This involves procedures for repairing, regular maintenance and cleaning HVAC units. All of this work will have to be developed with the HSE. In all buildings Karsons Consulting is involved with, we advocate best practice in design and maintenance with regular air quality testing to uphold clean air within buildings.
Karsons Consulting offers expert services in environmental engineering and air quality management. We provide an auditing role ensuring that your site is compliant and your staff breathe clean air. For any queries on air quality in buildings, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.