INCLEAN May-June 2019

Page 54


Creating healthy spaces No matter where we live or work, each of us deserves to be in a space that enhances rather than detracts from our wellbeing, writes GECA’s Kendall Benton-Collins*. Over just one year, many of us can spend up to 1920 hours sitting at the same desk, in the same building. That’s a long time to be surrounded by the same furnishings and breathing the same air. Architects and designers may spend a great deal of time and energy creating stylish and functional spaces, but how much thought goes into how healthy those fittings might be? Many of us might not think to ask whether our office carpet might be contributing to poor indoor air quality, or if there are carcinogens lurking in the foam of an office lounge. But decisions made about interior furnishings can have an impact on the health of employees. In addition to this, when you arrive on Monday morning to find a nice clean workspace, what’s been used to freshen the place up? Cleaning and janitorial staff are the unsung heroes of the office world (and of every other building too), moving in when the other workers are gone to wipe over the desks and empty out the bins. We assume they do a thorough job, but we 54 INCLEAN May/June 2019

usually don’t know what cleaning products are used to clean the surfaces we touch every day. Most indoor air pollution comes from interior sources and can include pollutants from adhesives, upholstered furniture, flooring, paints and cleaning products. Each of these can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde or potentially carcinogenic substances, which can trigger allergies, asthma, headaches, respiratory irritation and other symptoms as they readily vaporise into the surrounding air. Paints are one of the worst offenders when it comes to VOC emissions, particularly solvent-based paints. As a fresh coat dries, it can cause a dramatic rise in indoor VOC levels immediately following its application and can continue seeping out of the walls for several years. Cleaning products and flooring materials can also give off VOCs, which is why switching to greener products is so beneficial. Many conventional cleaning products can also contain

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