Audit

Healthy Office/Workplace Audit covers following:

  • indoor air quality (assessed for contaminants such as fragrances; ambient air pollution of the indoor air; off-gassing of furniture; furnishings and finishes; building materials and so forth)
  • mould and sources of moisture
  • allergens (dander, dust, dust mites, chemicals in personal care and cleaning products)
  • sources of electrical, magnetic and high frequency fields inside and outside the home and also high frequency transient spikes (aka “dirty electricity”)
  • drinking water quality and recommendations on different water filters
  • lead and heavy metals (spot tests can be carried out onsite to determine the presence of lead in paints and other materials, but samples are sometimes collected for laboratory analysis – from ceiling dust, soil, paint chips, house dust and more.)

You will be given recommendations (formal written report provided) on how to create safe and healthy working spaces, reducing exposure to allergens, dust and EMFs, choose a suitable water filtration system and cleaning without chemicals.

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Description

Healthy Office/Workplace Audit will identify potential hazards related to your health concerns.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY

Globally, outdoor air quality is deteriorating due to pollution from traffic, construction, agricultural activity, combustion sources and particulate matter. Because ambient air diffuses easily, even distant sources of pollution have a huge impact on the more than 15,000 liters of air we breathe every day. Indoor air quality can be degraded by these outdoor sources, as well as by off-gassing from building materials, indoor combustion sources and water
leaks.

Poor ventilation practices can fail to address these sources, exposing us to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and microbial pathogens. Another way in which indoor air quality may be diminished is via surfaces, which can accumulate airborne germs. All of these contaminants contribute to a range of negative health outcomes such as asthma, allergies and other upper respiratory illnesses. In addition, air quality issues can diminish work productivity and lead to sick building syndrome (SBS), where no disease or cause can be identified, yet acute health effects are linked to time spent in a building. SBS symptoms include various nonspecific symptoms such as eye, skin and airway irritation, as well as headache and fatigue.

The reactions people have to air pollutants vary widely and depend on multiple factors including the concentration of the contaminant, the rate of intake and the duration of exposure. Pollution source avoidance, proper ventilation and air filtration are some of the most effective means of achieving high indoor air quality.

MOULD AND MOISTURE

Mold often grows on cooling coils in HVAC systems due to moisture condensation and can be introduced into the building’s indoor air. It can also occur on or within wall assemblies due to water damage or improper detailing in humid locations, for example kitchens and bathrooms.

Mould problems are often left unsolved and the mould is simply removed whenever it appears. Removing mould does not get rid of the problem and it will always return unless the source of the moisture is removed. Specialised equipment is required to measure the amount of moisture in the building material enabling the path to be traced back to its source, so the water intrusion can be rectified. The mould problem may be a result of leaking water pipe, a broken roof tile, lack of ventilation or possibly a bad building design or a poor building material choice.

Health problems related to mould include:

  • various health effects on the respiratory system
  • eye, nose and throat irritation / inflammation
  • wheezing, nasal congestion
  • sneezing, sinusitis, asthma, recurring colds
  • headaches, coughing and sore throat
  • fatigue not eradicated by rest
  • rashes and various skin conditions
  • learning difficulties and  behaviour problems in children

CHEMICALS IN PERSONAL CARE AND CLEANING PRODUCTS

Regular cleaning is an important practice as it helps to remove potentially harmful debris and maintain a healthy indoor environment. However, numerous chemicals and improper cleaning techniques can undermine indoor air quality. Harmful ingredients in cleaning products can lead to eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, and emit VOCs into the indoor environment, which may lead to other health effects including sick building syndrome (SBS).

An adequate cleaning regimen using nontoxic, hypoallergenic cleaners helps to reduce bioloads, pests, environmental allergens and unpleasant odors without introducing chemicals that might adversely impact indoor air quality.

Powerful antimicrobial chemicals (also known as disinfectants) are increasingly found in household cleaners, from laundry detergent to kitchen cleaners to handy wipes. Yet research has shown that some of the most common antimicrobial chemicals used in cleaners could have serious health consequences. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to potential health impacts from simple irritation of the skin, eyes, and respiratory system to hormone imbalance, immune system impacts, asthma, and potential reduced fertility. The overuse of disinfectant chemicals also contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, more commonly known as “superbugs.”

Many antibacterial hand and body soaps, for instance, contain a chemical called triclosan, which poses serious risks to our health and the environment. The dangers of triclosan (and a related antibacterial chemical, triclocarban) are many. For starters, it’s an endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with important hormone functions, which can directly affect the brain in addition to our immune and reproductive systems. Specifically, the chemical disturbs thyroid, testosterone, and estrogen regulation, which can create a host of issues including early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity, and cancer. Studies have also shown it can lead to impaired learning and memory, exacerbate allergies, and weaken muscle function. The impacts of prolonged exposure during fetal development, infancy, and childhood can be particularly severe, resulting in permanent damage.

ELECTROMAGNETIC RADIATION

Many health effects are associated with electromagnetic field exposure but the most common are:

  • disturbed sleep
  • insomnia
  • headaches
  • tingling
  • loss of short term memory
  • difficulty concentrating
  • chronic fatigue
  • breast cancer
  • childhood leukaemia
  • brain tumours
  • tiredness
  • irritability
  • forgetfulness
  • learning difficulties
  • tinnitus

Light is a visible form of electromagnetic radiation, bordered in the spectrum by ultraviolet radiation at smaller wavelengths and infrared at larger wavelengths. In addition to facilitating vision, light influences the human body in non-visual ways. Humans and animals have internal clocks that synchronize physiological functions on roughly a 24-hour cycle called the circadian rhythm.

All light—not just sunlight—can contribute to circadian photoentrainment. Given that people spend much of their waking day indoors, insufficient illumination or improper lighting design can lead to a drift of the circadian phase, especially if paired with inappropriate light exposure at night. Humans are continuously sensitive to light, and under normal circumstances, light exposure in the late night/early morning will shift our rhythms forward (phase advance), whereas exposure in the late afternoon/early night will shift our rhythms back (phase delay). To maintain optimal, properly synchronized circadian rhythms, the body requires periods of both brightness and darkness.

DRINKING WATER QUALITY

Clean drinking water is a prerequisite for optimal health. More than two-thirds of the human body is comprised of water, a major component of cells, and the medium for the transport of nutrients and waste throughout the body. In addition, water helps to regulate the internal body temperature and serves as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that women consume approximately 2.7 liters [91 oz] and men 3.7 liters [125 oz] of water per day (from all sources including drinking water, other beverages and food). These amounts are appropriate to offset what leaves the body through respiration, perspiration and excretion, aiding in the removal of toxins, byproducts and other waste.

Drinking water contamination is a major public health issue. Many people receive water that has been exposed to potentially harmful levels of biological, chemical and mineral contaminants.

The source of water contamination can sometimes be traced back to industry and its related processes. Contaminants like lead, arsenic, glyphosate, atrazine and microbes that are naturally occurring or inadvertently introduced into the water can pose serious health threats. However, treatment and distribution systems meant to keep our drinking water safe are also potential sources of contamination. For example, chlorine and chloramine which are commonly added to water to kill pathogenic organisms can lead to the formation of disinfectant byproducts such as trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs), as well as N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which may lead to cancer and other adverse health effects when exposure occurs at levels above the EPA standards. Finally, pharmaceuticals, personal care products (PPCPs) and other emerging contaminants are increasingly finding their way into our water supplies, with largely unknown health effects.

While taste and aesthetic preferences lead many people to drink bottled water, consumption of bottled water is not without its drawbacks. Overreliance on bottled water has environmental implications, but even putting aside those concerns, the quality of bottled water is subject to degradation. In one study, levels of antimony in 48 brands of bottled water from 11 European countries increased by 90% after 6 months of storage due to antimony leaching
from polyethylene terephthalate bottles (PET(E) bottles, designated as recyclable “1”).

Related research

FDA Rule Casts More Doubt On Anti-Microbial Building Products

The Dirt on Antibacterial Soaps

Mold Resources

Respiratory Health Effects of Ultrafine Particles in Children

Residential Exposure to Pesticide During Childhood and Childhood Cancers

Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions

Review of endocrine disorders associated with environmental toxicants (Endocrine disrupting chemicals used in packaging industries, pesticides, food constituents)