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The Importance of Air Ventilation in Health and Safety



Numerous sources report that we are now spending 90% of our time within the confines of our homes, offices, schools, or place of business. While a lot of media attention is focused on outdoor air quality, emission control, and smog levels surrounding our major cities, the fact is that for most of us, indoor air quality has a far greater impact on our health than outdoor pollutants. To make matters worse, the individuals that are often indoors the most such as the elderly, young children and anyone suffering from illnesses or chronic conditions are often those most at risk from indoor contaminants. Fortunately, new technology in heating and air conditioning systems, air purifiers, and an awareness of the impact that indoor air quality has on our health is leading to more awareness and education about protecting and improving indoor air quality. The following resources are a sample of the information and research available.

OSHA Ventilation Standards

This United States Department of Labor site addresses the OSHA Ventilation Standards for shipyards, longshoring, general industry, and construction industry.

Indoor Environmental Quality

The Center for Disease Control shares the importance of operating and maintaining HVAC systems for controlling indoor air quality.

Hair and Beauty Salon Ventilation Concerns

While natural ventilation is always best, an air change rate of five times per hour is recommended and more frequently when excessive chemicals are used. This site contains links to Salon ventilation information for the UK.

Guide to Home Ventilation (PDF)

Proper ventilation is needed in the home environment to exchange indoor and outdoor air. Without proper ventilation gases, pollutants, and excess moisture can accumulate and lead to health problems.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Assessment Model (I-BEAM)

This assessment model released in 2002 by the Environmental Protection Agency is a tool designed to assist contractors and other building professionals to plan adequate indoor air quality control for commercial buildings. Use this model to stay within budget yet improve air quality controls, conduct IAQ audits, train staff, manage housekeeping related to IAQ, and provide documentation of ongoing IAQ practices in accordance with industry standards.

Ventilation Requirements Affecting Patient Care Areas in Hospitals & Outpatient Facilities (PDF)

This document provides a table of ventilation requirements for areas involved in patient care such as Laboratory areas, Treatment rooms, Surgery, Critical Care, Nursing, Dietary service, and Ancillary Services.

Inadequate Ventilation and High CO2 Levels

If your workplace always feels stuffy or you frequently suffer from headaches at work, it could be a sign of inadequate ventilation that allows the buildup of CO2 into the indoor environment. While current standards state CO2 levels should not exceed 1000 ppm, most office levels fall between 600-800 ppm. For individuals sensitive to low levels of CO2 this may be enough to trigger health complaints.

Safety Standards for Underground Coal Mine Ventilation (PDF)

In this 1996 Mining Safety & Health document, the standards for underground coal mine ventilation are addressed. Issues include the use of pressure records, and fan monitoring systems, methane testing during operations, along with specific guidelines for placement and monitoring of compressors and alarm systems.

Mining Technology: Ventilation

This is a review of important ventilation issues in underground mines. Topics include basic mining ventilation safety, regulations, and the importance of adequate ventilation design and safety backup procedures.

Adequate Ventilation for Copiers/Printers (PDF)

This PDF document outlines recommendations for providing adequate ventilation for copiers and printers. Included is a graph showing recommended room air exchange per hour based on room height.

Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality (PDF)

Published in 2001 by the ASHRAE, this document gives full standards for adequate indoor air quality as defined by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers and the American National Standards Institute.

Fact Sheet: Ventilation for Welding and Cutting (PDF)

This fact sheet, published in2009 by the American Welding Society includes safety facts and tips to keep in mind when welding. Adequate ventilation during welding operations depends upon several factors including size of the work area, number of operations, ventilation type, and efficiency of the ventilation system as well as the contents of the fume gases.

Ultraviolet Radiation and Ventilation to Control Tuberculosis (PDF)

Tuberculosis and other air borne infections can be killed with the use of ultra violet light. Adequate ventilation is used to supplement the use of UV light and other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of disease. When are combined with early detection, treatment, and the use of UV light therapy, ventilation procedures offer an additional level of protection against the spread of this disease.

SmokeFree Air: Facts about Ventilation and Secondhand Smoke (PDF)

In this document published by Healthy Mississippi.Org, a convincing case is made that shows ventilation is not effective in removing secondhand smoke from indoor environments fast enough to prevent increased health risks. According to one source cited in this document, a ventilation system would need to work at the strength and speed of a full-blown windstorm to remove second hand smoke fast enough to reduce health risks effectively! According to this document, the only adequate control against indoor pollution from second-hand smoke is to ban smoking indoors.

Smokefree Ireland: Second-hand Smoke and Ventilation (PDF)

This document from Smokefree Ireland also provides evidence that while a ventilation system is helpful in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, even the best systems do little to remove all or even most of the danger. The reason ventilation is not adequate to remove secondhand smoke is because most ventilation systems use a dilution circulation exchange that mixes 10-20% fresh air with indoor air containing the secondhand smoke. Therefore though less concentrated, inhabitants are still exposed to the health risks associated with secondhand smoke pollutants.

Ventilation Strategies for Energy-Efficient Production Homes

New energy efficient homes are now being built that are designed to be so efficient in blocking outside drafts and escape of indoor heating and cooling that it is becoming necessary to address the need for mechanical ventilation designs to be included in new home construction. This report by the Energy Analysis Department of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recommends mechanical ventilation designs for various climates.

Kitchen Ventilation Systems and Indoor Air Quality

This report addresses the need to educate individuals in the need to use kitchen ventilation consistently to prevent air quality issues such as increased moisture and pollutants during cooking rather than simply relying on kitchen ventilation to solve cooking problems such as smoke removal.

Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation in Photographic Processing Facilities (PDF)

Potential contaminants affecting indoor air quality during photographic processing depends on the equipment and chemistries in use. Proper ventilation of the photo processing area will lessen risk of exposure to potential gases and fumes released during the developmental process and comply with set OSHA standards. Without adequate ventilation, gases and fumes released during photographic processing can be highly irritating to the eyes, and lungs. Prolonged exposed could lead to health complications.

Laboratory Ventilation

This is a resource for ventilation recommendations for laboratories and includes a helpful listing of resource references regarding acceptable ventilation standards as well as research papers covering the efficiency of various ventilation methods.

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH®)

For more than 70 years, the ACGHI has focused on occupational hygiene and health safety issues and currently has over nine committees active in topics such as air sampling, industrial ventilation, agriculture safety and health, bioaerosols, as well as threshold limits for chemicals and other toxic substances many airborne in nature.

Air Quality in Animal Structures (PDF)

It may come as a surprise to learn that over 300 gaseous compounds have been recorded within animal housing structures. Excessive gases and other contaminants pose a health hazard to animals, humans, and the surrounding ecosystem. In addition to ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, dust, molds and other biogenic compounds can accumulate and pose a serious hazard unless adequate ventilation is used.

Proper Ventilation of Confined Space Manure Storage Facilities

This article highlights the introduction of improved ventilation standards used in confined space manure storage facilities. Each year deaths occur in these facilities due to exposure to toxic fumes and gases. The new standards will reduce risks by tripling air exchange.

Impacts of Building Ventilation on Health and Performance

This page contains a listing of resources showing how adequate ventilation affects not only personal health but also individual job performance or school achievements.

Indoor Air Qualities in Schools

The same basic factors affect indoor air qualities in schools as in any other indoor environment. These factors include sources of pollutants (cooking, cleaning, materials used in construction), pollution pathways, air circulation and ventilation issues, and people. Indoor ventilation, air filtration, and awareness can work together to lower health risks.

READ THIS Before You Ventilate (PDF)

This brochure offers information about the need to balance the flow of inside and outside air for optimal ventilation and health benefits. A discussion on the practical realities of new building construction and the need to choose different systems based on different climates.

Indoor Air Quality Fact Sheet

This fact sheet published by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Healthy gives a good list of sources for indoor pollutant affecting air quality and the hazards of each. Ventilation systems are is discussed as an answer to the problem as well as the potential contributors to the problem if not properly maintained.

Well Ventilated

This is a listing of standards and codes designed to provide well-ventilated homes that keep pollutants to a minimum and safeguard your health and the health and safety of your family.

Better Bedroom Ventilation May Help Reduce SIDS Risk

In this article published by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, a study reported in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine,(Oct 2008),shows that simply by placing a fan in an infant’s room to circulate air at night may reduce the risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death by 72%.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Advice

Improper heating systems, blocked vents, or leaks can allow carbon monoxide to build up to deadly levels in a home. Since this is an odorless, colorless gas, you may have no idea you and your family are in danger. This site offers advice and tips to lower your risk carbon monoxide poisoning.

New Ventilation Guidelines for Health Care Facilities (2001) (PDF)

New research and concerns for reducing risks in high exposure areas lead to revisions in ventilation guidelines in a number of health care settings including changes to pressurization in some treatment rooms or areas.

Whole House Ventilation Systems for Improved Air Quality (PDF)

This brochure offers insight and tips to considering implementing whole house ventilation systems as part of a new building construction. The advantages include improved health benefits related to reduction in pollutants and increased circulation through an exhaust, supply, or balanced ventilation system.

Removing Fumes during Embalming Procedures (PDF)

Studies found a link between cancer and formaldehyde as part of a 20-year study involving embalmers. As a result, new recommendations for ventilation during the embalming process have been recommended. Adequate ventilation has been cited as the most effective means for controlling exposure to formaldehyde fumes.

WHO Fact Sheet: Indoor Air Pollution and Health

According to the World Health Organization, 3-billion people worldwide depend on biomass such as wood, coal, crop waste, and animal dung for fuel over open fires or using outdated stoves with poor ventilation in their living quarters.

Improve Indoor Air Quality

This British Columbia page offers three ways to improve indoor air quality that is applicable anywhere. Pollutants and others sources that affect indoor air quality are discussed along with the importance of using air cleaners or filters.

A Field Study on Air Quality and Healthy Ventilation

This article from the National Research Council Canada, offers an example of how field studies on air quality and ventilation are conducted.

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