The sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe a situation in which the occupants of a building experience acute health- or comfort-related effects that seem to be linked directly to the time spent in the building.
Your shoestring budget doesn't have to affect the air you breathe. There are simple things you can do to improve the air quality in your library because a tidy workplace reduces the opportunity for accidents and illness, and prevents wasted energy. Did you know that a messy working environment contributes to unsafe work practices, undesirable incidents within the library, and unclean air? Did you also know that good housekeeping is a cornerstone of efficiency and maintenance standards?
Good housekeeping helps you
- manage and maintain your library property and equipment;
- keep up on your inventory;
- weed effectively;
- cut down on time spent searching for an item;
- improve productivity and moral;
- eliminate accidents and fire hazards;
- provide the best use of space;
- control property damage;
- reduce cleanup;
- and improve your library's appearance and air quality.
Your Air is Polluted!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that indoor air is two to five times as polluted as air on the other side of the window. The American Lung Association claims even higher levels and calls indoor pollution a health hazard for millions of Americans with asthma or allergies. Indoor pollutants range from visible particles of dust, pollen and smoke to invisible combustion by-products such as carbon smoke, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide, as well as other gaseous invaders such as fumes from carpet adhesives and upholstery. In fact, modern furnishings, synthetic building materials, and even your own carpet may carry more chemicals than expected.
These chemicals can make up to 90 percent of indoor air pollution.
Formaldehyde is a volatile organic compound that's emitted in low levels by a variety of household building products and furniture, may cause cancer in humans and has been known to trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions when present in high levels. It is a common component of glues that hold pressed-wood or particleboard furniture and cabinets together. It is also emitted by natural gas stoves, carpet glues, flooring glues, caulks, sealants, paints, furniture finishes, and the water- and stain-repellent finishes applied to upholstery and clothing.
For the small library or solo librarian there are two common sense approaches available:
Ventilation and Controlling the Pollutant at the Source
If dust is a problem in your library you might want to leave floors bare or use area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpeting. Vacuuming may help, though some vacuum cleaners just stir up dust. If your space is small, a room air cleaner can generally clean a single room.
Do you have a window air conditioner?
Remove the filter and wash it at the sink with dish-washing liquid and warm water. After the filter is completely dry put it back into the unit.
Brush leaves and dirt off the outside of your window air conditioning unit.
Do you have central air?
If you happen to have central air conditioning, you'll need to clean the air filter once a month during heavy use. If the filters can't be cleaned, follow the manufacturer's instructions for replacing them regularly.
Keep the outside condenser unit clear of leaves, grass clippings, dirt and shrubs. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for keeping the coils clean.
If there is a pipe for draining condensed water from the unit, check it regularly for blockages. Make sure that leaks in ducts are sealed, and that the ducts in un-cooled spaces are insulated.
Check that the weather stripping around windows and doors is air-tight, and vents and grills inside the library aren't blocked.
Plants will help your air quality!
Spider plants eliminate formaldehyde and xylene. They grow quickly and look great anywhere.
Dracaenas, such as the tall corn plant or the rainbow plant, eliminate formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, and trichloroethylene.
Devil's Ivy, or Golden Pothos, is considered practically indestructible because it flourishes in a variety of conditions. It is also considered the most effective indoor air purifier for removing common toxins. It eliminates formaldehyde, xylene, toluene, benzene, carbon monoxide, and more.
But the common Mum, or chrysanthemum, is ranked the highest for air purification. These beauties eliminate common toxins as well as ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene.
- Keep the floors clean by vacuuming and mopping
- Avoid synthetic cleaners or air fresheners
- Reduce humidity in the air
- Increase ventilation
Image compliments of: UBS Clean Care has had a variety of clients through the years, including: Office buildings, Schools and Universities, Retail facilities, Banks, Medical offices and more.