New Perspectives on Air Pollution

How recent studies change the way we look on our offices environment

For the decades now, researchers and scientist are working to understand the effect that volatile pollutants have on human health. Many pollutants have been identified, from Sulphur and Nitrogen oxides to VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) each one of them with its own negative impact. For a long period of time the attention has been focused on vehicle generated pollutants as being the most obvious and prevalent source in large communities. Consequentially, big efforts has been put in reducing the amount of emitted gases and more is on the way.

In the last period, scientific community, start to realise that a potentially significant source of pollution may come from other refined chemicals we are using daily and ubiquitously, namely: deodorants, paint, adhesives or pesticides. These products have been traditionally considered as being harmless, because of the relative small quantities that presumably are floating around our offices and our homes.

new study published in February 2018, in Science Magazine, by University of Colorado [1], reveals that even sourced from less than 5% of total raw oil, these chemicals are designed to be wafted into the air and they are inhaled directly into the lungs. The effect is difficult to be quantified directly; the mix of compounds, especially VOCs, are so diverse that is impossible to individually distinguish their effect. The conclusion of University of Colorado study is that we all underestimated the total VOC by neglecting consumer and industrial products as sources, raising the percentage of VOCs from these sources to 50% from the total quantity (compared with 25%, the previous estimation). The advice is to reduce their usage on the limit when the job is done, as it is impossible to remove them completely from our day-to-day environment.

The first step to solve this problem is to acknowledge the problem; then is important to estimate the magnitude, as for each environment the regular levels might be different. All depends on the quality and quantity of chemicals that have been used to bring the office in the current status. It might be the case for a lot of sources that are no longer visible, being integrated part of our indoor environment, like, but not limited to, the following:

  • products used every morning by the cleaning company to sanitise the rooms

  • new or existing wall paint or adhesives used to fix the carpet

  • new or existing furniture

  • electrical appliances like printers

Just as an example, related on the first element above, a recent research published in American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine [2] can be particularly harmful in long term for some of us.

The effects are different form person to person: some likes the smell of the new paint or the new aroma of the air freshener, but the same makes others choke. Going beyond personal preferences, it is all about keeping our offices and homes as healthy environments.

The Nuvap solution [3] is the professional solution for monitoring the indoor air quality inside the offices, spaces where we are spending at least one third of a working day. The parameters that are constantly (every hour) monitored includes VOC, carbon oxides, heavier air pollutants (ammonia, methane, etc.), particulates, radon, radiation and many more. The result can be obtained in real time and displayed on screen in public areas, or on any device, fixed or mobile, directly from a web browser or from a dedicated application. Alternatively, specialised reports can be build by request, to observe the long term evolution of the interesting parameters. In case of need, local specialised partners will bring in their knowledge to solve the existing problems.



References:

[1] Brian C. McDonald, Joost A. de Gouw, Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, Science, Vol. 359, Issue 6377, pp. 760-764, Feb 2018

[2] Ø Svanes, RJ Bertelsen, Cleaning at home and at work in relation to lung function decline and airway obstruction, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine [online], available at https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/rccm.201706-1311OC

[3] Nuvap Romania, N1x Series [online], available at http://www.nuvap.ro/solutions.php