It is important to understand that most chemicals used in housekeeping, maintenance, operations, pest control, and cafeteria services can affect air quality.Their use in the building should be properly managed.

Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) are obtained from the manufacturers or distributors and should be on file in the building where any potentially hazardous material is to be stored or used. MSDSs for all chemical products used should be kept in an easily accessible area for employee access.

A master file should also be kept in the offices of the personnel responsible for the chemical’s use. A building’s population should not be subjected to unknown and potentially harmful effects of any material because of the absence of an MSDS.

The chemical composition of hazardous ingredients must be evaluated along with the hazardous reaction potential.Wherever possible, materials, chemicals, and reagents that present the lowest toxic potential should be used. There are many authoritative sources available to help in this determination, including vendor salespeople, vendor chemists, and even the local or state health department.

Less toxic materials should be substituted for more toxic materials. In general, water soluble materials should be given preference over organic-solvent systems. Materials that are higher in flash point (ignition) and/or have a lower vapor pressure are also preferred.

Building Use Changes. Special care must be exercised when building space utilization is changed. Renovation, redesign, or changes in building use can create situations that may lead to compromises in IAQ. For example, if a copy machine is installed in a small closet or other unventilated space, chemical emissions such as ozone, carbon-black dust, or ammonia may become problems.

Further, the addition of blueprint processes, paper-bursting activities, or even microwave cooking can add unexpected odors, dusts, or gases to an unprepared or improperly engineered area. The effect on heat and noise levels must also be anticipated if new equipment is added to an area.

A common renovation problem arises when additional personnel need to be accommodated in a space. Office or instructional areas are often partitioned and additional furniture and equipment is installed. Anticipate the need to modify the air distribution in these situations.

Conversely, when partitions are removed, creating new spaces, the ventilation distribution and balance must be revised. Care must be taken to ensure that, in the final layout, air-supply grilles are located far enough away from the returns so that complete air balance and mixing does occur. Otherwise, stagnant areas will develop.

Evaluation of Building Materials Prior to Construction or Renovation. New materials used during construction or renovation present the potential for occupant exposure to emissions (offgassing) from those materials. Many IAQ problems can be avoided by selecting building materials that are less likely to pollute.

In cases where this is not possible, the responsibility for addressing the issue of product offgassing falls to building management.The most likely avenue to pursue is dilution of the concentration of emissions. Chemical content, chemical emission potential, and the potential for toxicity and irritation are all issues that should be considered in construction or renovation.

Most manufacturers are now supplying MSDSs with the delivery of their products. If the product is a carpet, wallboard, paneling, or material, some vendors can now supply product emission statistics on these items. In cases where the product emission rates are not available, most vendors will employ staff or consultants who can relate information about the products’ effects on IAQ.

The simplest approach to material evaluation is to identify materials that can raise IAQ concerns, and select the lowest-emitting and least-toxic products.

Ventilation and Isolation During Construction or Renovation. During renovation projects, special care must be taken to isolate the area being remodeled from all occupied areas. The contaminants can spread via the HVAC system, by airflow through corridors, up and down elevator shafts, and through ceiling plenum areas.

Contamination of occupied areas during remodeling can lead to tenant complaints ranging from dry eyes, itchy skin, and burning throats to nausea and even vomiting. Individual effects almost always include lower productivity, which is used to support claims of tenant move-out.

There should be an effort to supply sufficient exhaust-only ventilation to areas that are involved in this construction or renovation process. Further, adjoining (occupied) areas should be kept under a slight positive pressure to avoid cross-contamination. This positive pressure in occupied areas, along with exhaust ventilation at the source of the contaminants, will help to isolate and remove most contaminants.

After the construction or renovation project has been completed, other strategies fall into play that can have a major impact on the IAQ of the facility. Much has recently been written about “bake-out” or “flush-out” procedures.

Bake-out is a process of overheating a building or space to artificially age the materials that are sources of contaminants. Research on the effectiveness of this process is limited, and any attempts at performing this process should be guided only by IAQ consultants.

Pesticides. Building management should be committed to providing the building with a pest-managed environment through the implementation of preventive hygienic methods and chemical strategies when necessary.

Integrated pest management (IPM) emphasizes the use of nonchemical techniques for the management of pests, relying on the use of pesticides only when nonchemical strategies are not effective.

Each building should receive a scheduled inspection for the purpose of identifying existing or potential problems that may contribute to harboring, feeding, or population growth of pests. Inspectors should recommend nonchemical pest-control measures whenever possible.

Finally, the inspector will list options for chemical treatments should the nonchemical measures prove to be unsuccessful.

Chemical control treatment should be applied after building hours with the exception of emergency situations. All contract personnel will be required to possess a valid pest-control applicators license, and such license must be on file in the building management office.

Building management has a responsibility to notify all tenants about the pending treatment for pests. Management should also assign personnel to accompany the application technician, and to monitor the use and location of all pesticides.

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