In our blog entitled, “HVAC Maintenance in Healthcare Facilities,” we explored the top five bacteria lurking in hospital airways. While we focused primarily on the threats bacteria pose to hospital occupants, we didn’t cover how to clean healthcare facilities. It may seem obvious to use standard cleaning products to maintain your HVAC system, but for many health and environmentally conscious practitioners, the ‘obvious’ choice isn’t actually the best method. The best practice for maintaining your HVAC system is to go green. This cuts down on not only environmental contaminants but also potential adverse respiratory complications for patients and staff.
The most commonly reported occupational asthma-causing agent is poor indoor air quality, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. But how does this correlate to going green? RADS.
Have you ever heard of RADS or reactive airways dysfunction syndrome? RADS is a respiratory disorder developed by inhaling high concentrations of:
- Irritant Gas
RADS symptoms can develop minutes or hours after a single accidental inhalation of concentrated cleaning solvents. Ultimately, asthma or asthma-like symptoms will develop with repeated exposure. To reiterate our point about going green, natural alternatives do not contain chemically-reactive agents which likely emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds). When we covered Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Testing, we noted VOCs as a negative chemical characteristic of IAQ. In fact, VOCs ability to cause respiratory and dermatological problems, among other adverse effects, were the impetus for Green Air Environmental.
At Green Air, we are proud to use a chemical-free, sustainable coil cleaning method to restore HVAC units to like-new condition. Going green is not a new concept and is met by some detractors as simply being a trend. Yet, what is often lost in translation about switching to natural alternatives is its sustainability.
Sustainability is often lumped in with environmentalism, a blanket term. However, sustainability focuses more on creating a system of repeatable (self-sustaining) practices. To elaborate, chemical cleaners contain harsh compounds that wear down your equipment. Meanwhile, natural alternative cleaning methods rid your HVAC equipment of bacteria, improve the efficiency of your equipment and improve your IAQ without causing harm to your building occupants, ultimately saving you and your facility money.
What are the alternatives?
While we’ve mentioned the dangers chemical cleaners pose on building occupants, we’ve not yet explored the natural alternatives. A few popular methods are:
- Steam Vapor
The power of vapor steam cleaners lies in its ability to utilize heat to dry, clean and sanitize HVAC units and other surfaces. It can be used to disinfect surfaces by heating (tap) water to high temperatures and releasing pressurized steam. Steam (vapor) cleaning is able to “break soil bonds and release contaminants into water suspension, after which they can be removed by wiping or vacuuming.”
- Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)
UV irradiation uses short-wavelength light to kill dangerous microorganisms by disrupting their DNA. In disrupting microorganism on a cellular level, they are rendered inert. “UVGI is used in a variety of applications, such as food, air, and water purification.”
- Electrolyzed Water
Electrically converts tap water into highly charged, acidic and alkaline water. When this water mixture touches dirt, it breaks the grime into minuscule particles that mops, cloths or other cleaning equipment can easily remove. In some cases, this process can also eradicate disease-causing pathogens instead of covering them with the residue that chemical cleaners leave behind. – Cleanlink.com
These are not the only methods that exist, but each is a health conscious and viable alternative to chemical-compounds. Here at Green Air, we’ve had the opportunity to use our the steam cleaning method in over 70 hospitals in the southeast!
Interested in getting started? “Building service contractors who wish to switch their current janitorial cleaning program to a green janitorial cleaning program can find definitions and guidelines for doing so on the United States Department of the Interior‘s website.” – HealthierCleaningProducts.com
The USDOI’s guideline are a great way to get started in identifying ways your organization can go green. Additionally, the Healthier Hospitals Initiative was formed in 2012 to encourage healthcare organizations nationwide to shift to more sustainable practices. Facilities are challenged to examine and address their impact on both patients and the environment. Additionally, the HHI has created a guideline detailing four levels of commitment hospitals and healthcare facilities can follow to create healthier environments:
- Level 1
Commit to one of the following: Green cleaning, DEHP and PVC reduction, healthy interiors, mercury elimination.
- Level 2
Commit to two of the following: Green cleaning, DEHP and PVC reduction, healthy interiors, mercury elimination.
- Level 3
Commit to three of the following: Green cleaning, DEHP and PVC reduction, healthy interiors, mercury elimination.
- Level 4
Commit to four of the following: Green cleaning, DEHP and PVC reduction, healthy interiors, mercury elimination.
As listed in each of the four levels, the first (and easiest) step is green cleaning. It is both cost-effective and can immediately stop the circulation of harmful air pollutants (VOC’s) and prevent the early onset of RADS. Additionally, green cleaning methods will increase the life expectancy of your HVAC equipment while restoring its operating efficiency to like-new condition.
By partnering with environmentally conscious organizations like Green Air, you can make the first step knowing you are working with distinguished service experts. As the conversation regarding sustainability grows, there’s no better time than now to start implementing green initiatives. Green Air’s mission is to rid organizations of harmful air pollutants while educating every industry from healthcare to retail on the benefits of natural alternatives. To learn more about how you can improve your IAQ, IEQ, and standard of living, you can contact us here.