Most of us spend the majority of our day in an indoor office, breathing in recycled air in a somewhat static environment. What often goes unnoticed in office buildings is the presence of fungi and mould, particularly brought on by warmer weather and by a moisture imbalance within the office environment.
While mould and fungi are essential in the outdoor environment and play a vital role in breaking down organic matter, indoors, they carry a risk of causing health issues.
So why are mould and fungi bad indoors? According a report by The University of Adelaide, it’s all about the moisture. Buildings are designed to contain a temperature controlled, relatively stagnant volume of air, and this is what can create numerous microclimates favourable to either the growth of fungi, or to the accumulation and deposition of fungal and mould spores. These effects are particularly apparent in large, carpeted office buildings.
And because these microbial contaminations are not always obvious to the naked eye, they can have a detrimental effect on health before anyone realises there is a problem.
What health issues can be caused by indoor fungal contamination?
- Asthma can be exacerbated
- Watery, itchy eyes
- Chronic cough
- Headaches or migraines
- Sinus problems
The same report by The University of Adelaide states that although Australian workplaces are commonly monitored for a range of chemical and physical hazards, particularly in industrial settings, microbial contamination of indoor working environments is often neglected unless health symptoms are reported and require investigation.
But it’s not necessary to wait for people to fall ill before acting. Here are ways you can be proactive and reduce the risk of indoor fungal or mould concentrations causing issues.
Ensure adequate ventilation
Office buildings usually rely on recycled air from the air-conditioning system. Pollutants like mould spores can accumulate in the air-conditioning system, so it’s important to get your air conditioner serviced and cleaned regularly. If you don’t have air conditioning, and your building has inadequate ventilation, consider opening windows, using fans or installing ducts that can draw air inside.
Utilise regular commercial cleaning services
Commercial cleaning can help to keep mould spores at bay. Regular use of a vacuum cleaner which has a filtration system, and the cleaning of walls and surfaces with hospital grade disinfectants, can reduce the risk of spores ending up suspended in the air.
Maintain appropriate humidity and temperature control
Keeping the temperature and humidity under control not only helps to make sure everyone is comfortable, it can lower the risk of mould and fungi growing. WorkSafe Victoria suggests a temperature of between 20 to 26 degrees Celsius for buildings where work is predominantly deskbound, depending on factors such as the weather, and the working environment.
Maintain HVAC systems
Ensure you regularly have your HVAC ducting, filters and drip pans cleaned, and make any essential repairs as quickly as possible. Fix leaks or poor drainage. Address any leaking taps, pipes or air conditioning units, as these leaks contribute to the moist environment that mould and fungi love.
The health risks of indoor mould and fungi can be significantly reduced by the implementation of preventative measures. By following these simple steps, you can improve indoor air quality and everyone in the workplace can breathe easier.