The Role of Indoor Air Quality

When the topic of air quality arises, it is often in the context of outdoor air and environmental pollution. However, indoor air pollution causes 3.8 million deaths across the world each year from causes including lung cancer and stroke, according to OnHealth. But what pollutes indoor air, where might it be coming from and how can facilities take steps to improve the quality of their indoor air? Some answers may lie in the products businesses use.

Many popular air fresheners emit carbon-containing chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can worsen indoor air quality (IAQ) without eliminating foul odors. In fact, indoor air tends to contain some pollutants in concentrations two to five times higher than outdoor air, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Facility managers should carefully examine the products they are using to control odors to gauge the impact those products may have on IAQ. Then, facility managers should look for air freshening solutions that limit indoor air pollution while effectively eliminating malodors.

Elements of Indoor Air Quality 

Numerous factors influence IAQ, but pollutants like some VOCs and the presence of malodors are two factors that facility managers should not overlook.

  • • Levels of Harmful Pollutants.
    Some common air freshening products, especially aerosol sprays, contain VOCs such as ethanol, acetone, toluene and formaldehyde, that pollute indoor air. Companies may not be legally required to include potentially harmful ingredients on their labels. VOCs can exist in concentrations up to ten times higher indoors than outdoors, according to the EPA. Defined by their ability to evaporate from liquid to gas even at room temperature, VOCs allow some aerosols to seemingly disappear into thin air as their particles release a fragrance. However, as these compounds evaporate, they release organic gases, (containing carbon) into the indoor air. This is a form of indoor air pollution, and it can also impact the health of a building’s occupants. Air that contains VOC pollutants can cause people to experience headaches, allergic skin reactions, nausea, dizziness and various other symptoms.

  • • Presence of Foul Odors.
    It is important to recognize that malodors can negatively impact IAQ as well. Unpleasant odors like cigarette smoke, mold and restroom odors (including feces and urine) can not only lower the quality of air by proliferating malodor particles, they can also cause visitors to perceive a facility as unclean and lower their opinion about an organization. A recent Harris Poll found that 93% of Americans say a foul odor would negatively impact their perception of an organization, while 56% say they would assume a facility with a foul odor is no clean. Another study found malodors can have a wide array of detrimental effects, including adverse physical symptoms for building occupants; negative effects on their mood, stress levels, cognition and social relations; and even impacts on the property values of odorous facilities. In short, foul odors can harm both the air and the people inside a building.

Achieving Cleaner Indoor Air

A facility’s odor elimination program should seek to minimize air pollution while also completely eliminating foul odors. Facility managers can achieve this goal by finding odor elimination solutions that fit these criteria.

First, facilities should consider non-aerosol options with no VOCs added in order to promote high-quality indoor air. Look for solutions that use 100% pure fragrance oil and are a safe choice for any facility. Consider a system that uses innovative oxygen fuel cell technology to dispense fragrance consistently and continuously, for 30, 60 or 90 days, without adding harmful pollutants into the air.

Secondly, truly eliminating malodors is crucial to improving IAQ. Some aerosols infamously have a “spray-and-fade” effect, meaning they cover up malodors only temporarily before the fragrance fades. If the aerosol contains VOCs, this effect can lead to even more pollutants in the air as employees spray the product more frequently. To avoid this, seek out solutions that use a proprietary malodor neutralizer to consistently attack foul odors and eliminate them at the molecular level. 

Better for the Bottom Line

By understanding the negative impact that malodors and air pollutants like VOCs can have, facility managers can find solutions that avoid harming the environment and building occupants. Employing solutions that minimize air pollution and effectively eliminate malodors can improve both IAQ and the overall experience of customers and guests. Plus, a safe odor elimination program can benefit the bottom line. A study in the academic journal Indoor Air estimates that air quality improvements in office buildings can provide a potential annual boost of $20 billion in revenue to the companies operating in those facilities. Considering all of these benefits, it is in many organizations’ best interest to rethink its approach to odor elimination with more consideration for IAQ.