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Property Management Best Practice: Promoting Clean Air

By Sandra Zimmerman

Property_Management_Best_Practice_Promoting_Clean_Air.jpgWhile for a number of decades much attention has been given to the quality of the air that we breathe outside, indoor air pollution is actually a thing too, and can often be much more harmful to our health than most people realize.

DID YOU KNOW?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as a top five environmental risk to public health. EPA studies found indoor air pollutants were generally 2 to 5 times greater than outdoor pollution levels. Source: www.globalhealingcenter.com

The elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory problems such as asthma and environmental sensitivities are most vulnerable to indoor air pollution. However airborne toxins can also have negative health impacts for children and pregnant women.

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Following are some of the top contributors to airborne toxins and irritants found in homes and multifamily living units. Consider educating your residents about these harmful elements, by including this or a similar list in your community newsletter, or by posting an infographic on your social media channels.

1. Air Fresheners

Scented air freshening products actually do anything but make the air fresh! Most contain phthalates, chemicals that are known to disrupt hormone function in babies and children and interfere with reproductive development. For some true fresh air, open up a window or two!

2. Scented Candles

Most candles, especially the attractive scented ones made with paraffin wax, contain benzene and toluene, two known carcinogens that are released into the air as the candles burn. Instead choose soy or beeswax-based varieties scented with pure essential oils.

3. Cleaning Products

Again, most cleaning products contain potentially harmful chemicals that are deemed by governing bodies to be at safe levels. However, prolonged or frequent exposure, or exposure to a combination of harmful agents could result in respiratory problems and/or the formation of tumors. Alternatively, combinations of warm water, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils can be used as safe and effective household cleaning agents.

4. Natural Irritants

Dust, pollen and pet dander are not toxic, however, they can cause severe irritation for those with allergies and asthma. Dusting with a damp microfiber cloth will result in surfaces being cleaned of these irritants, rather than just pushing them around or releasing them into the air with a dry cloth or duster. Also use HEPA filters for furnaces, air purifiers and vacuum cleaners.

5. Mold Spores

Black mold can grow in any place where moisture is present for a sustained period of time and usually takes hold in a place that is hidden from sight. Black mold is toxic can cause permanent damage to health and in extreme cases it can even lead to death. Note that cleaning black mold with bleach, as many people mistakenly do, actually triggers spores being released into the air.

6. Vinyl Flooring & Carpets

Carpets and vinyl flooring both off-gas VOC’s (volatile organic compound) which include a variety of chemicals that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and skin problems. Higher concentrations may cause irritation of the lungs, as well as damage to the liver, kidney, or central nervous system. Tile flooring is a safer, attractive and durable alternative.

7. Furniture, Electronics & Your Mattress!

Chemical flame retardants (PBDEs) have made their way into a long list of household objects including furniture, electronics and the mattress you sleep on every night. Exposure to PDBEs doesn’t normally trigger an acute response, but can potentially have serious cumulative effects. As concentrations build up in the body, there is increased risk of permanent nervous and reproductive system damage, with greater risk to small children.

In addition to educating your residents about the above contributors to poor indoor air quality, you can do your part as a responsible property manager by taking the following steps mentioned in our previous blog post: Property Managers, Benefit from Healthy Communities

— use zero-VOC materials for renovations (e.g. paint, flooring, cabinetry)

— source cleaning contractors and vendors who use natural and/or unscented products and micro-fiber mops and cloths

— prevent the growth of mold by regularly inspecting and fixing any sources of water and deal with unexpected water events like floods and leaks quickly and thoroughly (within 24 hours)

— choose low-allergen landscaping options as well as indoor greenery

— reduce the amount of air-born asthma and allergy triggers by installing high quality air filters for common spaces and perhaps individual units

Finally, the best thing anyone can do to combat the negative effects of indoor air pollution is to get outside and breathe in some fresh air while soaking up some mood-boosting vitamin D.

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