Large office printers often emit VOCs.

The air quality in the workplace – be it an office with many printers, computers and other electronic equipment, a factory or any other enclosed space – plays a crucial role when it comes to workers’ productivity and absenteeism as well as morale.

EPA studies show that indoor air pollution levels can routinely be up to five times higher than those found outdoors as a result of contaminants from tracked-in soil, chemical-laden cleaning products, inefficient or unmaintained heating and cooling systems, and the like.

In the short-term, poor indoor air quality can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and fatigue. Over the long-term, however, medical authorities say it can contribute to asthma, lung disease, cancer, and even damage to the neurological system.

Here are simple steps to improve the air quality in the workplace:

  1. Be aware of the risks and different sources of indoor air pollutants. The more you know about the dangers of chemical exposure (even at low levels), particle inhalation and mold growth, the quicker you can act to avoid health problems later on.
  2. Have furnaces, heating and cooling equipment cleaned periodically to prevent gas build-up or discharge; regularly replace filters to help avoid harmful particles from circulating throughout the place of work.
  3. Use advanced filtration technologies such as activated carbon, HEPA and UV to remove and/or eliminate the widest range of indoor air pollutants (including chemicals, gases, particles, viruses, bacteria, allergens and mold spores). Opt for a free-standing, portable air purifier that can help improve indoor air quality at the fraction of the price it would take to fix up the ventilation system. The most effective air purifiers feature many pounds of activated carbon, advanced airflow design, the best particle filters and other options.
  4. Remove the source of pollutants (if possible). For example, make sure no harsh chemicals are used to clean the workplace. When renovating, low-VOC products should be used. Ventilation needs to be adequate and EPA also says that air cleaning can be a useful adjunct to source control and ventilation.
  5. Place “scraper” floor mats outside entranceways to remove soiling from shoes, and place walk-off carpeted mats just inside entrances to capture any residual particulates. All mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure their effectiveness.
  6. Mop floors after vacuuming to remove any contaminants left behind. Technologically advanced microfiber mops and dusting cloths, in particular, can capture more soiling than traditional cotton products…and without the use of potentially harmful cleaning solutions. An EPA study conducted for the healthcare industry found that microfiber cleaning can remove up to 98% of contaminants from surfaces using only water.
  7. Regularly use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help eliminate common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Dander, for example, clings to clothing and can be easily spread.
  8. Use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to keep indoor humidity in the 30-50% range — a level that helps keep mold, dust mites, and other allergens at bay.

Many office buildings suffer from poor indoor air quality that can affect workers negatively. EPA uses the term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.

The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.