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Sick Buildings

You know that city air is pretty polluted. But if you thought the air outside was bad, you'll never guess what the air is like inside.

A recent study has proven that the air in many city offices is more of a hazard that the air out in the streets. Because city workers spend the vast majority of their time indoors (up to 90% of their day), there is a risk of health issues.

The air conditioning in office buildings is just cooled air pumped in from the streets below. There are filters in air conditioning units but they aren't sufficient to remove all of the pollution - especially ultra fine particles from car exhaust such as:

Carbon Monoxide
Nitrogen dioxide
Sulphur dioxide
Polycyclic hydrocarbons

Just to give you an idea of how small these particles are, picture a centimetre. Divide that into ten pieces and you have a millimetre. Now divide that millimetre into 1000. You now have what's called a 'micron'. Car exhaust particles are less than one-tenth of a micron. They're small enough to travel to travel from our lungs to our bloodstream and be pumped all around the body, causing serious health problems such as damage to the heart and brain.

Printers emit untra-fine particles
In offices, concentrations of exhaust particles have been found up to 5 times more that out in the street. Also, air conditioners are causing problems in themselves, with mould and other debris growing in ducts that becomes airborne and causes other health problems.

There's another culprit responsible for polluting the air that you would never guess. Printers. In particular, laser printers were found to emit extremely high levels of ultra fine particles of toner. These ink particles get breathed into our lungs.

The chilled beam system is safer
Thankfully, there is a new technology where instead of bringing air in from the street, it comes from inside. Using the 'chilled beams' system, air on the top level is chilled and it moves to the bottom floor which then moves into the atrium and is exhausted through the roof. Many new office developments are using this technology as a safer and more environmentally friendly way of keeping the workplace cool and clean. Chilled beams technology is 50% more energy efficient and as it produces no condensation does not allow any 'nasties' to grow. It also reduces the need to 'move' air around a building.

Of course, a simple thing you can do in your own home is to put a few potted plants around. Yes, apart from making you feeler calmer, and producing oxygen, certain plants are great at removing toxins from the room air. The top ten - as researched by NASA scientitsts are:

Peace Lily - Some plants can absorb toxins

Areca palm
Reed palm
Dwarf date palm
Boston fern
Janet Craig dracaena
English ivy
Australian sword fern
Peace Lily
Rubber plant
Weeping fig

So get planting....

Alastair Wadlow


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