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All this talk about improving IAQ (indoor air quality) at work makes you wonder: Can cleaner air really improve your productivity at the office?

People want quantitative facts and figures as proof, and that’s often a hard thing to come across when you’re dealing with increased (or decreased as the case may be) productivity due to cleaner, fresher air and better work environments. However, it has been done. In 2003 a study as conducted by Vivian Loftness that proved there was increased productivity in buildings with more natural light and natural ventilation (windows that could open). While the increases were lower, single-digit percentages, they were still increases and prove that the more natural our environment the more likely we are to work and be productive.

A well-known corporate sustainability strategist, Charles Lockwood, also found that when Toyota changed one of its office buildings to an LEED-certified structure that absenteeism dropped by 14%. Why would absenteeism drop? Well, cleaner air and less toxic materials off-gassing into your work environment means that you’re less likely to call in sick because of a headache, chest cold, allergies, or other illness associated with poor IAQ.

Another recent study has shown that poor IAQ leads to more employees suffering from SBS (Sick Building Syndrome) and taking sick days due to these symptoms (allergies, respiratory illness, asthma), and while this might not seem like a big deal an estimated $60 billion a year is spent in the USA alone for medical leave, sick days and absenteeism due to poor IAQ. That’s no small amount for something that can be easily solved with a proper air filtration and ventilation system.

IAQ affects your physical and mental health and can have a major influence on how you work on a day-to-day basis. Clean, fresh air free of ambient pollutants means a cleaner head and proper focus on the task at hand at work.

Business owners can increase their profits through employee productivity simply by providing cleaner, fresher air in the workplace with efficient air purification systems like ones from Electrocorp. Easily integrated into already existing HVAC systems, Electrocorp units can help boost your yearly revenue and keep your employees from getting sick and missing work.

Clean air isn’t just a necessity in everyday life, it’s a necessity of a successful business.

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Public housing, Bedok - Credit: Alan-L/Flickr.com

While the idea of public housing is, at its core, an excellent idea, the execution of buildings across the globe have been less than successful for a number of reasons. Mostly, crime and poverty run rampant in public housing units, and it is often hard (if not impossible) to control because of the renters living in the public housing units. However, those aren’t the only issues faced by public housing units, and public health and safety boards are starting to wake up to the fact that air quality is a major issue.

Public housing units are often large, non-profit, government-owned buildings. Maintenance and upkeep is hard, and the quality of living spaces suffer immensely because of it. Any apartment building or complex is often difficult to maintain because of the large scale of the building space and the number of people housed in the unit.

Indoor air quality issues stem from building issues. Mold buildup, poor ventilation and poor building materials used can all contribute to a indoor air quality issues. And one of the biggest contributors to poor ambient air are the smokers living in public housing units.

Now, this has sparked some serious debates across the United States. Because public housing units are, essentially, personal residents, those who live in the units are against the ban on smoking because it is their homes. However, because the buildings are usually government or state owned, they have a right to implement smoking bans on the buildings just as they do in restaurants, bars, etc. But, how would you feel if you weren’t even allowed to smoke in your own home?

The problem of indoor air quality problems in public housing could possibly be solved without banning smoking (though that would obviously help) by implementing standard air filtration units in each building. Dealing with smoke is one thing, but mold is just as life-threatening and can be treated with proper air ventilation and filtration.

Public housing was created to help those who were less fortunate in life and needed a place to live, and yet we are providing them with dangerous, unhealthy living spaces. It’s time we stepped up and provided the standard of living we’d expect in a middle- to upper-class home. Don’t we all deserve that?

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As the world calls for more and more resources, mining has taken hold of North America. There are roughly 300 functioning mines across North America right now. From gold mines to tintalum and niobium mines, if there’s a demand for it, it’s being dug for.

Mining has never been considered a safe profession. From wall collapses to explosions, mining has claimed the lives of many over the centuries. While modern mining is much safer than it used to be — accounting for 0.02% of deaths in the USA, compared with 0.016% caused by car accidents yearly — it still has occupational hazards unique to the profession of mining. Particle matter from mining dust is one of the most deadly occupational hazards associated with mining — and not just for the workers in the mining shafts.

Because there are so many types of mines across North America, it’s impossible to pinpoint a single particle matter that causes respiratory illness in workers and residents near mine shafts. The most common mines around are coal mines, however, there are a multitude of other mines across North America. We’ll focus on coal mining for the moment.

There are several hazardous “damps” (steam/vapor) that can appear in coal mines and can cause serious respiratory problems for coal mine workers. Black damp is a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. If inhaled, black damp can cause suffocation. Fire damp is mostly methane and is extremely flammable and also poisonous if inhaled, touched or ingested. After damp, which forms after a mine explosion and is less common, is composed of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Stink damp can, perhaps, be the most damaging in terms of how it affects the body. Named “stink” damp because of its rotten-egg smell, this airborne pollutant consists of hydrogen sulphide. Exposure to hydrogen sulphide prevents the brain from using oxygen by inhibiting the enzyme cytochrome oxidase, which is never a good thing. And finally, there’s white damp which is air containing carbon monoxide, which can also be lethal. Because carbon monoxide is so difficult to detect without the proper sensory machinery, this damp is extremely dangerous and can lead to death is less than 3 minutes if the exposure levels are high enough.

The most common respiratory illness in coal miners (often referred to as the coal workers’ pneumoconiosis) is black lung disease. This respiratory illness is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. It is a great concern in coal mine workers in North America and spurred the Black Lung Disability Trust because so many miners were falling ill with the disease.

Prevention of lung disease in miners is still very much in its infancy. While ventilation shafts and water systems are in place in most, if not all, underground mines, the worker’s exposure to airborne toxins is still too high.

How do we keep our miners safe from diseases like black lung?

This is something the mining industry has to take into consideration, and it has for the most part. Ramping up mine air quality monitoring systems and ventilation shafts, however, miners are still at risk.

Do you know someone who works in a mine, or do you work in the mining industry? If so, do you suffer from a respiratory illness or know someone who does because of their profession?

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