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Can Reduced Maintenance Budgets Impact IAQ?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing.

Washington 7/17/2012 1:55:41 AM

Washington, DC – As modern medicine improves at warp speed then why has asthma prevalence rates jumped sharply in the U.S.?  With all the knowledge base data, reductions in outdoor air pollutants, no smoking policies instituted, greening of new buildings, increase medications, then why is asthma prevalence increasing today?  Can deferred maintenance be a reason?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be controlled by medications and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. You must also remove the triggers in your environment that can make your asthma worse. Only treating the symptom (with medications) and not treating the cause (removal or reduction of the pollutant) can have catastrophic results.  If triggers (pollutants) need to be identified and reduced then can deferred maintenance be a reason for the increase in asthma prevalence?

More on asthma prevalence:

CDC states the number of people in the United States suffering from asthma has jumped significantly in the past 10 years. The report, which tracked asthma cases from 2001 to 2009, indicates one in 10 children and about one in 12 Americans of all ages now have asthma.

The increases are occurring in all demographic groups-white, black, Hispanic, men, and women-but black children appear to be most impacted. One in five black children had a diagnosed asthma attack in 2009.

Among the other findings:

•Overall, there was an 8.2 percent increase in asthma in 2009 compared to 2001.

•There were approximately 20 million cases of asthma in 2001; this increased to approximately 25 million by 2009.

•About 13.5 percent of poor children have asthma.

•More women have asthma (9.7 percent) than men.

•Asthma costs grew to $56 billion in 2009, up from $53 billion in 2001.

Can deferred maintenance be a reason?

Why are asthma rates rising and what is deferred maintenance?

Environmental consultant, Alan Wozniak, President/CEO of Pure Air Control Services, a nationally renowned building sciences firm and his staff have studied over 10,000 buildings, covering over 600 millions sq feet, over the past 25 years.  In collaboration with Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab), an American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) accredited laboratory, Wozniak's team “found a direct correlation between a decrease in maintenance or deferred maintenance and an increase is occupant complaints.”

Dr. Janvier Gasana, MD, professor at Florida International University (FIU), Robert Stempel College of Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health and Chair of Florida Children’s Environmental Health stated “medically there is a direct association between poor indoor air quality in both homes and buildings and an increase in prevalence of asthma, emergency room visits and allergy-type symptoms.”

The accounting standard-setter for the U.S. Government in its Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standard 6, defines deferred maintenance in this way, “Deferred maintenance” is maintenance that was not performed when it should have been or was scheduled to be and which, therefore, is put off or delayed for a future period. For purposes of this standard, maintenance is described as the act of keeping fixed assets in acceptable condition. It includes preventive maintenance, normal repairs, replacement of parts and structural components, and other activities needed to preserve the asset so that it continues to provide acceptable services and achieves its expected life. Maintenance excludes activities aimed at expanding the capacity of an asset or otherwise upgrading it to serve needs different from, or significantly greater than, those originally intended.

Pure Air Control Services building sciences team added “as a result of reduced maintenance dollars, buildings are not effectively maintained causing an elevation of bio-pollutants.”  The study indicated that primary areas of deferred maintenance and higher occupant complaints (e.g. asthma, upper respiratory illness, chronic sinusitis, coughing, sneezing, etc…) occurred were a result of:

• HVAC Systems: neglected, dirty air conditioning systems

• Building Pressurizations: negative building pressurization allowing for outdoor ecological pollutants to enter into the indoors

• Wetted Building Materials: ceiling tiles, interstitial walls that were once wetted via water intrusion or leaks never effectively dried causing microbial growth

• Evaporator Coils: ineffectively cleaning of evaporator coils oftentimes leaving pounds of impacted debris in them causing reduced air flow, decreased latent moisture capacity and dirty sock odors;

• Housekeeping: ineffective housekeeping procedures can increases internal allergen production e.g. dust mites, cockroach, dander, dust

• Building Materials: chemical off-gassing from a myriad of construction materials e.g. cabinets, carpeting, foam insulation, etc…

• Filtration: ineffective filter maintenance/replacement, inadequate filters, low MERV values, 

In Wozniak’s studies the following indoor air pollutants were typically elevated primarily as a result of reduced maintenance budgets:

• Dust Mites

• Mold & Bacteria

• Cockroach Allergen

• Pollen

• Insect Biodetritus

• Pet Dander

• Chemicals

• Bed Bugs (primarily in hospitality)

• Nuisance Dust

Maintenance competes for funding with other programs and is often deferred because appropriations are not available or were redirected to other priorities or projects.

Deferred maintenance is often not immediately reported -- and sometimes, not at all. Maintenance which is deferred because of insufficient funding may result in increased safety hazards, poor service to the public, higher costs in the future, poor indoor air quality and inefficient operations. Deferring maintenance in the business world may make economic sense today; unfortunately, funds that should be allotted for critical maintenance (such as coil cleaning) often become unavailable for extended periods of time leading insidiously to irreversible equipment damage.

So, can deferred maintenance be a reason asthma rates have jumped sharply in U.S.?  Yes, though the good news is that simple yet effective steps can keep a buildings indoor air quality at bay and sometimes at optimum condition with little costs, and some with quick paybacks. 

So, what can be done?

The Facilities Management Department at a major U.S. university is intimately familiar with this scenario, but to them, dirty coils were nothing but a pot of gold buried in dust, debris, bacteria and mold. They found a unique steam coil cleaning process so efficient, totally green (no chemicals) and safe for the environment that in the first year of its implementation alone saved the university over $800,000 of their power bills and were able to provide the students and teachers a healthier learning environment. The estimated payback in less than eight months was 157% return on investment (ROI).

Because dirty coils are difficult to clean, expensive to operate, cause air flow problems, are unhealthy to breath and can lead to humidity control deficiencies, it makes sense to minimize the amount of dust that can enter the airflow and to clean them before dirt accumulation becomes visible. Pure Air Control Services (PACS), an industry leader in environmental and mechanical cleaning technologies recommends not deferring coil cleaning to the point that dust accumulation is visible. Minimally, coils should be cleaned once a year using the superheated steam process. For non specialized environments (hospitality, schools, healthcare, office buildings) Pure Air Control Services also recommends using air filters with an equivalent Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) of 8 or greater and to minimize the amount of air that could infiltrate in the air handler by ensuring that the filters fit snuggly in the holding racks and sealing all cabinet penetrations. 

For more information on development of a proactive maintenance program and energy savings programs such as topical environmental cleaning, PURE-Steam Coil Cleaning and/or HVAC system cleaning contact the professionals at Pure Air Control Services at 1-800-422-7873.

About Pure Air Control Services:

Founded in 1984 by Alan Wozniak, President/CEO in what began as a small mechanical contracting business has grown into an award winning, industry leading indoor air quality (IAQ) service company serving many fortune 500 corporations, school boards, county, city, state and federal governments and consumers across the US.  The firm has serviced over 600 million square feet of indoor environments in over 10,000 facilities. 

Pure Air’s nationally performed services include: Building Sciences Evaluation; Building Health Check; an AIHA accredited Environmental Microbiology Laboratory; Environmental Project Management; and Duct Cleaning & Mold Remediation Services, among other indoor environmental services. The company’s expanding client roster includes the General Services Administration (GSA); Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Allstate Insurance; Carrier Air Conditioning; Naval Air Warfare Center, Orlando; and Naval Air Station - King's Bay, Georgia, and many other Fortune 500 companies, school boards, and city, state, and county governments, making Pure Air a reliable industry leader.

For more information, visit the company’s web site at or contact Cy Garner or Alan Wozniak at 1-800-422-PURE (7873) ext 804 or 802 respectively

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