Category Archives: Indoor Air Quality

Why you always wind up catching every bug around

Out of it in Oxford Street
Bugs are like buses – nothing for a long time, then five come along together

Cough, splutter – every bug around.

Seems you can’t help yourself.

And as soon as you’re over the first, the next one’s on the way.

Blame it on your hectic lifestyle.

Always on the go, no time to stop. Rushed meals, not enough sleep, too much happening at once.

Stress. Yes, that’s it.

Your body’s immune system is down  because of stress – and catching every bug is paying the price.

What a load of old tosh.

Germ reality check

Oh sure, you’re catching every bug. Because your body’s in a state the germs find easy to get in.

But not stressed.

More like undefended.

Those germs are coming at you all the time – just like they do for all of us – and you’re doing nothing to stop them.

Colds, flu, norovirus, UTI, e.coli – your list of absences reads like a calendar, every month of the year.

Yes, but if that was stress, you’d be out of circulation by now – permanently surrounded by a crowd of worried consultants in white coats.

In the meantime, you’re still catching every bug.

OK, let’s ask you a question.

You’re always one the move, with no time for yourself – can’t even remember breakfast it was so long ago, if you didn’t skip it altogether…  So when was the last time you properly washed your hands? The real thing with soap and hot water, having a good old scrub?

Can’t remember?

Come on in, door’s open

Not surprising.

Because chances are you’ve gone through the whole morning without any chance of getting to the washroom. And now you’re grabbing a quick salad wrap al desko, gulping down it quick so you’re ready for those heavyweight clients this afternoon.

And during all this time you’ve handled your keys, money, phone, the railings in the street, grab-handle on the bus and again in the Underground, lift button, door handle, security keypad and a whole stack of documents.

So inside or outside, whatever germs are on them, your hands have picked them up too.

And because ALL of us touch our face repeatedly throughout the day, those germs have easy continuous access through the soft tissue round your eyes, nose and mouth. Or are hitching a free ride down your throat with every mouthful of salad wrap.

Open doors, see. And without soap and water – or a wipe-down with antibacterial gel – you’re letting them in without checking their boarding pass. No permit, no visa, they’re on their way to create mayhem and you’re just letting them.

Which is why you’re always coming down with every bug around.

So it’s not stress, it’s forgotten hygiene.

Pushed out of the way by a busy lifestyle. And the illusion that most of the time your hands LOOK clean.

Deceptive though, because germs are so small, they’re invisible.  Microscopic. You could have 3 million on your little finger and never know. Very iffy when it only takes 10 to come down with norovirus.

Germ soup

It’s not just your hands either. It’s everything. We think we’re in clean, clear air – but reality is we’re constantly swimming around in a germ soup.

Take a look in a fish tank – one of those jobs with a light in the top, so you can see the fish.

See all that stuff in suspension? Algae. They’re microbes too. Like bacteria and viruses. Tiny particles catching the light – just floating there, not rising or sinking. Exactly like germs are in the air around us.

Which means they’re on your desk, your skin, your clothes and everything you touch. So even if you clean your hands, they’re instantly covered in germs again as soon as you touch anything that hasn’t also been cleaned.

Plus of course they’re always there in the air itself – germs floating and swirling around, just like in the fish tank.

Except just like most of us never clean our hands, we never clean the air either. And anyway, how do you take a scrubbing brush to a handful of nothing?

Scrubbing the air

So sitting in your office with your colleagues around you, all those germs, all those open doors – is it any wonder you catch every bug around?

They can be stopped though. Eliminated completely by sterilising the place every night  when everybody’s gone home. Easy-peasy with one of those ionised air-misting jobbies.

Oh sure, a whole lot more come in from outside when people arrive in the morning. But at least the pace is germ-free to start with. None on any surface, or in the air – the place is safe.

Now at least, you stand a fighting chance. Make hands clean as often as you can – and keep everything clean around you – germs get less of a look in.

No more days off sick.

Or more likely with colds and tummy twinges – because you can’t take time off so easily when you’re half-sick – sitting at your desk feeling like grim death.

But that’s not you any more. With no germs around, there’s no sick to feel.

So you’re up and running, full of the joys of spring. And every bug around is somewhere else.

And the very best of health to you!

Picture Copyright: deryaduzen / 123RF Stock Photo

How well does your staff wellness plan shape against this year’s killer Aussie flu?

Woman on phone against fire
Get on the hotline. There’s only incomplete defence against A/H3N2 – unless you clobber it first

Make no error, this year’s latest from Oz is a killer.

73 dead already and counting.

Which means don’t play games, get protection in place now, before the worst happens.

You’re prepared of course.

Ready with flu jabs for the whole staff. No exceptions.

If one goes down, they all go down – it’s that kind of killer.

Because it mutates, see? Like all viruses and bacteria, it evolves an immunity from generation to generation. Survival of the fittest – and most lethal.

Dodgy virus, dodgy defence

Doubly dangerous this year, because the vaccine is less effective than usual.

Always a dodgy issue because it’s a guessing game. Before any outbreak happens, top World Health Organization medics have to choose which formula to use against which way they think new virus strains will develop.

Like spin the bottle to stop an epidemic.

Most of the time, they get it sort of right.

But viruses are unpredictable anyway – often flying off at a tangent.

Which is what they’ve done this year. Mutating into a new – and for the moment unconquerable – strain.

Which is why influenza A/H3N2 is not to be trusted – despite being  tracked, mapped and closely documented  since first appearing in 1968.

Hear the warning bells?

You might have everybody lined up for a flu jab. But there’s no guarantee it’s going to work – or even half-work.

So what’s your Plan B?

Because, impressive though they may be – all those free gym memberships, medical consultations, diet advice sessions, stop smoking clinics, feng shui décor options and ergonomic work stations are not going to work against this proven killer.

Only full-on germ elimination will do that.

And yes, there’s germs aplenty in every office. It’s just that they’re so small, they’re totally invisible to us. So we kid ourselves we’re all clear.

Russian roulette

In reality, we’re playing Russian roulette.

Because we don’t see, we don’t notice. And most workplaces are crawling.

For instance:

Our personal hygiene is not much better:

A killer is coming – and we’re unconsciously sitting right in the firing line.

Standing up to A/H3N2 needs at least everyone to wash their hands before and after doing anything.  Not very practical, but doable with antiseptic wipes and gel placed ready on every desk.

Still it’s not enough.

Air: life-giving and deadly

All those surfaces are still contaminated – the nightly go with a vacuum cleaner and wipe-down with a damp rag is way inadequate. Plus the air itself is full of germs too.

We think of it as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and carbon dioxide – and yes, it is.

It’s also dust, smoke, oil and exhaust fumes, toxic emissions and germs too. A full house of them – colds, flu, norovirus, MRSA, e. coli, salmonella, TB, c. difficile and at least 1,800 other  viruses, bacteria and fungi .

Plus any day now, A/H3N2.

Our only defence apart from soap and water – the HEPA filters in our air-con system. If we have them. But they’re only good for particles down to 3 microns – and A/H3N2 is less than 2 microns.

Not good odds against a known and virulent killer.

Total elimination

Unless we take all germs  out completely. Sterilise the whole place – desks, walls, ceiling, floor, every item of furniture and objects around it – plus of course, the air itself.

So it’s germ-free, safe and secure when we step in each morning.

And there’s only one way to do that with any certainty. Mist up everything every evening with ionised hydrogen peroxide. All germs are oxidised to nothing – including A/H3N2.

What? You don’t have regular hydrogen peroxide treatment as part of your wellness plan?

Better move fast, before the coughs and splutters start.

You don’t want your plan to look like window dressing.

What’s the worst about mould – staff off sick, your own asthma, or the straight up £5K fine?

Office mould problem
Workplace mould – asthma, respiratory problems and one big expensive headache

Disaster, isn’t it? You never had asthma before, now you’re permanently gasping for breath.

Your staff aren’t much better. Most of them off half the time. The rest struggling with headaches, colds, flu.

Or whatever else feels like a heart attack, just climbing the office step ladder.

That horrible mould problem again. Those black marks on the wall last winter? 20 times worse now with summer humidity – and everybody’s paying for it.

£5,000 fines – and worse

Including you, now Health & Safety have got to hear about it.

Toxic black mould – you’re in for it now. At least a £5K arbitrary fine – possibly more if any staff have a condition that’s got worse, COPD or the like.

Sure, you were busy – but staff well-being has to come first. That’s the law.

It’s also your duty of care. And even if the building landlord won’t play ball, YOU’RE the one who should report it to Health & Safety, or your local council’s environmental health department.

Forget that, and it’s a £5K fine or worse.

Like the £12K compensation paid out recently for a claim of occupational asthma after 5 MONTHS of ignoring the problem.

Fix it, or else

And it’s not going away until you fix it.

OK, so it’s probably structural. Damp in the walls or something. Landlord’s problem.

But it could equally be YOUR FAULT.

Not enough ventilation. Or the reverse – running air conditioners all the time and the things leak moisture.

Which puts you in a JAM situation – Just Add Money.

Weeks or months of builders thumping through the place while everyone’s trying to work. Or shelling out for temporary prem while they get the place sorted.

And the costs keep racking up.

Because you’re liable at all times for staff safety. And as long as you keep exposing them to hazardous germs, you could get the book thrown at you – specifically the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

You keep LOSING money too – the downside of “germonomics”. Productivity goes through the floorboards – staff are listless, under-performing, a long way from the extra mile they always used to go for you.

But there IS a quick-fix.

It won’t solve the problem long term, but it will stop toxic black mould dead in its tracks – and any other harmful germs floating around too.

The 80% – 80% phenomenon

And we mean floating. Because in the enclosed environments we spend more than 80% of our time in, 80% of the space we move around in is air. Home to dust, pollution, tiny bits of human detritus –billions of viruses and bacteria – and billions of airborne mould spores.

Get rid of them – and you get rid of the mould problem, at least temporarily.

For 24 hours, definitely – maybe even up to a week.

But they won’t go for good until that leaky roof, busted pipe, missing damp course or unventilated cavity wall gets fixed.

All it takes is to mist the place up with ionised hydrogen peroxide after everyone’s gone home. In around 40 minutes for the average room, it permeates everywhere – including through the air – oxidising ALL germs to nothing.

You can tell it’s worked because that toxic mould is no longer black. It’s pale grey and lifeless, safe to brush off and sweep away. And there’s no smell either. Your staff are safe in sterile surroundings. To a 6-log Sterility Assurance Level.

And since you’re being proactive in looking after their safety, you might just stave off the £5K penalty. You’ve done your bit, so the liability is the landlord’s.

Now all you have to do is work on that asthma.

How about two weeks in the sun? The staff too – they’ll probably earn it with their mojo back.

Then you’ll all be ready to reach for the stars.

Picture Copyright: skdesign / 123RF Stock Photo

How purified office air could still be full of germs

Unwell at work
You’re only as safe as the air you breathe – and everybody else breathes it too

You should be OK with purified air. But every system has its drawbacks.

Which means you may not be as safe as you think you are – even with the latest triple-whammy set up.

One reason is how most purifying systems work.

Passive instead of active.

A great big fan system sits in one place, sucking air through it. Filters next to the fan sift out contaminants – and the air goes round again, circulating for reuse. Purified.

HEPA efficiency

That’s usually pretty good with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) systems, which filter out particles down to a very small 0.03 microns.  Fine for fumes and exhaust sucked from outside, as well as smoke, dust, emissions from from building materials, furnishings, cleaning products, electronic equipment, toiletries, people and pets.

Not so fine for harmful viruses, bacteria, protozoa and fungi – which are often very much smaller. A typical cough-sniffle cold bug like rhinovirus might be as small as 0.002 microns. Too small to be filtered out, too light for gravity to affect it. So it rides the air, round and round – waiting for us to breathe it in. Not purified.

An efficient alternative is to use ultraviolet light. A fan draws air in through a long exposure tube – the “killing zone”. Ultraviolet attacks the microorganism’s DNA, rendering it unable to reproduce. If contact is long enough, it becomes neutral and effectively dead.

But how long is long enough? To make sure of a kill, the air has to move fairly slowly. It can’t recirculate fast like the HEPA filter – unless it has a whacking great bulb. And if the bulb is too big, it produces too much ozone – an effective antimicrobial, yes, but hazardous to humans.

Those are the passive systems. Air goes to the germ-killer, not the other way around. It works only where there’s airflow. In quiet corners and along walls, the air is still and unmoving. Particulates and microbes are there for keeps. Not purified.

Active – go get ’em

More effective is to be active – to take the germ-killer to the air. To force it out positively, driving it to disperse in all directions pro-actively. To invade the air totally.

The vehicle is a dry ultra-fine hydrogen peroxide mist, which kills germs by oxidising them. The mist is ionised to become a plasma, forcing itself away in all directions, penetrating everywhere.

The actual solution is mild, only 6%. But ionising transforms it, producing further antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet. From eco-friendly 6%, to turbo-charged 600%.

Electrostatic attraction causes oxygen atoms to grab oppositely charged viruses and bacteria. They are physically ripped apart – and the mist safely reverts to oxygen and water, which evaporates. Sterilised, purified, safe and secure.

OK, there is a downside.

Hydrogen peroxide won’t take out non-biological contaminants with anything like the same efficiency. Pollutants like volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide, particulate matter and fibres are better removed by the regular HEPA filters.

But work the two together…

Picture Copyright: pressmaster / 123RF Stock Photo