A Breath Of Fresh Air, Please! or… My Respirator

A Breath Of Fresh Air, Please! or… My Respirator

I’m a “clean air” guy. I have always had this thing for uncontaminated air, which is one of my phobias about living here in Southern California. Being a retired military person, I feel that proper personal safety equipment should always be mandatory.

I started a janitorial business in 1994. This quickly developed into a carpet and floor care service, a year later. I still have janitorial accounts, but now, I subcontract most of that work out to another company.

My wife and I noticed early on (when she used to work with me) that we were working in a very dusty and dirty environment. The vacuum cleaners we used would generate airborne dust particles and we were breathing those particles in on a daily basis. The “Dry Compound Cleaning System” we used (which included the use of a pile lifter) was also accelerating this problem. Therefore, we started using “dust respirators” along with the gloves and earplugs (adding them to our list of personal protective equipment).

In the world of carpet cleaning, we are frequently exposed to a lot of contaminates. Some of the nasty homes I go into make me wish I had never even taken the job. I know that I must be kicking up dust and junk into the air, 6 days a week (6 to 12 hours a day), from homes to commercial buildings.

I spent a large amount of money on the best, most expensive vacuum cleaners I could find, in order to keep airborne contaminates low, but they all seemed to be “dust generators”. Unfortunately, even after taking all these “preventative practices”, my wife developed a respiratory virus in one of her lungs that the Doctors said cannot be cured. It is a hard thing for her to live with and her breathing difficulties can strike at anytime, on a daily basis. We tried to find out exactly what caused this virus, but the Doctors could not pinpoint it. Fortunately, it is a non-contagious virus.

We decided to take a Doctor with us on the job in order to get his opinions. He showed me that, besides the exposure to airborne contaminates caused by our vacuuming and pile lifting, we were exposing ourselves to “atomized chemicals”. This was caused by the atomized water from my wand (using HWE) and by pre-spraying. I had always thought this was a bit of a stretch of the imagination, but this Doctor showed me otherwise. The entire experience soon had me analyzing and changing some of my cleaning procedures (such as, changing my pre-spray jet spray pattern and only using freshwater in my extractor’s supply tank.

When I clean a residential carpet, I always pile lift and vacuum the pile. Another employee will be detailing the baseboard areas and corners with another vacuum cleaner. Once the carpet is pre-sprayed, we start cleaning. Following the cleaning, an air mover is turned on. We went back to using this extra drying step, to insure that the carpet would be dry (or nearly dry) when we left.

In the process of cleaning, I know that I am generating large amounts of dust, and getting cat hair, dog hair, dander, someone else’s dust mites, and who knows what else, all over me! Some of this material is so bad; it makes your eyes get itchy. What we breath greatly effects our immune system. When we subject ourselves to contaminates, our immune systems have to work harder. It is “clean air” that affords our immune systems the time it needs to rest and rejuvenate.

Biological Contaminates are (or were) living organisms and are sure to be found in the home. These contaminates can travel through the air and are often invisible. Common indoor biological contaminates include:

– bacteria – molds
– mildew
– viruses
– animal dander – cat saliva
– house dust mites – cockroaches
– pollen

There are many sources of these pollutants: – bacteria (carried by people) – animals
– soil
– plant debris

Viruses are transmitted by people and animals. Pollens originate from plants.

The protein in rodent urine is a potent allergen. When it dries, it can become airborne.

I have an add-on service installing “electrostatic filter material” on the insides of client’s ventilation intake and discharge vents. This electrostatic filter causes any airborne contaminant that would normally enter the air duct system to become trapped. These filters have the same effect for particles that would otherwise depart the air duct system.

This add-on service gets me back into customer’s homes, a little earlier to clean the carpet again. I change these filters out with every subsequent carpet cleaning.

This service is an alternative to air duct cleaning and I believe (in most cases) it provides better IAQ (indoor air quality). For those clients who do not have central air conditioning, I sell “air purifiers” with a 5-year filter system to those who want them. I do not go out of my way to offer this service, but when I am asked about the respirator that I wear around my neck, this usually leads into a discussion about IAQ and how to improve it.

Gary MacKay

November 29, 2005 / by / in
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