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Do You Work in a Sick Environment?

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The air which we breath in during our work day can affect our overall well being and health. Employees who work in health care facilities, such as nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s clinics, as well as those working in commercial laundries are often at risk of coming down with colds, the flu, allergy-like symptoms or even contracting contagious diseases.

A sick environment is caused by pollutants which are present in the air we breath. These contaminants contain invisible particles, consisting of bacteria as well as molds, mildew and dust mites and are referred to as biological contaminants. Because of their tiny size, they can remain suspended in the air for many hours and are carried great distances on wind drafts, throughout a facility; potentially affecting sensitive individuals.

When individuals breath in and as a result become infected with contagious airborne bacteria, they can often become ill with symptoms ranging from the common cold to pneumonia and tuberculosis. Illnesses which are acquired in such a manner are referred to as nosocomial infections and affect 5 to 10% of hospitalized patients and staff.

Biological contaminants require moisture in order to thrive and remain potent. For this reason, they tend to originate from, and are more prevalent in humid environments. A health care facility laundry room is one example of a humid environment.

The atmosphere always contains some moisture in the form of water vapor in it, and the when it holds the maximum amount at a given temperature, the air is saturated with water, the level of discomfort is high and bacterial potency is maintained at a maximum level.

Relative humidity, is the ratio between the actual amount of water vapor present in the air, relative to the amount of water vapor that the air could actually hold at a certain temperature, if it were saturated. When air contains only half the amount of water vapor that it is capable of holding at a given temperature, the relative humidity is said to be 50%.

A key factor in reducing the proliferation of biological contaminants requires preventative maintenance.

Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule ensure that environmental surfaces are kept clean and relatively bacteria free, preventing surface bacteria from acting as a source of biological pollutants from becoming airborne during drafts.

By reducing the relative humidity throughout a facility to less than 50%, biological contaminations is reduced many fold to safe levels whereby bacteria can not proliferate.

Relative humidity can be controlled by a central cooling system, which reduce both the temperature and continuously extracts condensed air moisture and discards it. Air moisture which condenses on the cooling coils of the air conditioning unit is in essence removed from the atmosphere within the facility and allowed to drip away towards the exterior. This lowers the total amount of moisture that was originally present in the air, and is also reflected in a decrease in the relative humidity.

Any source of potential moisture, such as leaky faucets should also be repaired as the water issuing from them can contribute towards adding additional atmospheric moisture and thereby increasing the relative humidity of the air.

In summary, to maintain a healthy work environment, Environmental surfaces must be cleaned on a frequent schedule and the relative humidity should be maintain to less than 50%.
 
 


 



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