Indoor Pollutants Increase During Lockdown

May 19, 2020 | Building Performance, Environmental Compliance, Environmental Monitoring, News, Workplace Compliance | 0 comments

My last blog on increased incidents of asthma associated with gas cookers created a lot of interest.  However, the issue of indoor pollutants, especially PM2.5 and PM10, has taken on a wider significance with the current lockdown.

Normally, those of us who work away from home would only be at home 8 to 12 hours a day, the rest of the time is spent mainly commuting, working or socialising. Since many of us have now set up an office in a spare room or on the kitchen table, we are spending much longer periods at home.  This potentially exposes us to higher levels of pollution.

Researchers, led by Dr Aoife Morrin at Dublin City University School of Chemical Sciences, have noticed an upturn in particulate matter and volatile organic compounds in a sample of homes starting from mid-March.

The first time the researchers noticed the new pattern was when Dr Emer Duffy analysed sensor data from her own home. “I am interested in chemicals in the air around us,” explains Duffy. “I’m particularly interested in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can get into our indoor air from lots of different sources, including cooking, using cleaning products and burning fires or scented candles.”

3D Printers

One particular issue centres around 3D printers.  Many researches and product designers will have taken the work 3D printer home for the duration.  However, these devices can generate high levels of both PM2.5 and PM10. One paper published by Nature reports a peak indoor concentration for PM2.5 of over 800 µg/m3 during printing.  This is worrying given that the WHO recommends a limit of 25 µg/m3 as a 24 hour mean.  The Irish ambient air limit for 24 hours is 50 µg/m3.

Limits for indoor air for PM2.5 and PM10 are even lower.  The Irish HSA has no published limits for PM2.5 and PM10 in its Code of Practice 2020.  However, the LEED and WELL green building standards specify a limit of 15 µg/m3 for PM2.5 and a limit of 50 µg/m3 for PM10.  If you decide to print a chess set at home then you are likely to exceed the LEED/WELL limit for indoor air by a factor of over 300.

Using a 3D printer in a work environments usually means that the risk is well managed and a proper risk assessment has been carried out.  Abatement of these risks will include well-ventilated workspaces and exposure will be limited to a single shift.  When staff bring these devices home, their use will not be as well uncontrolled, work spaces will be smaller and exposure could be for 24 hours a day.  This may result in both staff and their families being put at risk.

Get in touch with Environmental Efficiency on 01 276 1428, or click here to learn more about indoor air quality.