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Dust & Indoor Air Quality In The Office


The accumulation of dust in the office environment is a normal occurrence, which is typically controlled with good housekeeping practices. Common office dust is composed of several different components including cellulose fibers (clothes and paper), synthetic fibers (clothes, furniture, and carpeting), skin cells, hair, and pollen.


Dust may become an indoor air quality issue when there are health concerns associated with the presence of dust. It is common for the accumulation of dust in the workplace to lead to allergy-like symptoms of the occupants. In office environments that do not have thorough housekeeping practices, common allergens may begin to accumulate, creating conditions that will impact sensitive individuals. An additional health concern is the concentration of dust particles in the air. Hygieneering has the ability to both test for common environmental allergen levels and monitor airborne dust concentrations at multiple particle sizes to compare them to recommended levels in the office environment.


What if your normal gray office dust has an unusual color (black, red, or white) or an unusual texture (grainy, gritty, or greasy)? These types of dusts may be due to degrading building materials, issues within the HVAC system, or other unusual circumstances within the building or workplace which an IAQ professional may be able to solve. Hygieneering has extensive experience in detecting the sources of various dust types and helped resolve their accumulation in the office environment.


In a recent project, a building’s tenant observed the accumulation of small black particles on their white desk. The tenant would wipe down their desk every day to remove the particles and the next morning the black particle would return. Samples of the particles were collected by Hygieneering and determined to be composed of mold. The source of the particles was investigated by Hygieneering and traced back from the tenant’s office to the supply ductwork and into the HVAC fan unit that serves that portion of the building.


The mold growth was found on surfaces within the fan unit and insulated surfaces of the main duct, which sloughed off periodically and entered the downstream ductwork. When the HVAC unit’s fan first started in the morning, air surged through the ductwork pushing the particles out of the ductwork and onto the tenant’s desk. The building was able to resolve the issue by adjusting the conditions within the HVAC fan that permitted the mold growth and had the system thoroughly cleaned to remove the residual particles that had accumulated within the ductwork.


If you have general concerns about your building’s indoor air quality or specific concerns about conditions like office dust, odors, or recent flood events, please contact David Zeidner, Director of IAQ Services at dzeidner@hygieneering.com or 630-654-2550.

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