How Facility Dampness Can Impact Health and Safety… and ways to address the problem
Almost all buildings experience moisture and dampness problems at one time or another. Most often leaks, flooding, condensation, damaged groundwater plumbing, or high humidity cause dampness problems, and even building occupants can be a source of moisture. Respiration and perspiration contribute to indoor moisture, as do humidifiers used in some facilities. And let’s not forget cleaning. Poor wet mopping practices can impact moisture levels.
While leaks can be fixed, and flooding can be cleaned up, moisture problems can result in lingering indoor dampness, which can negatively impact the health of a facility and those who use it. Dampness remains because most building materials and furnishings in a facility are porous.
If moisture or actual droplets of water attach to a surface, they can become absorbed into pores and then spread across it. And once absorbed into the surface, it typically cannot be drained out.
The result is what scientists sometimes refer to as “moisture-induced damage” which produces the dampness. While the severity of the problem is affected by different variables, “in buildings that have moisture-induced damage, people can be exposed to a complex mixture of microorganisms, organic and inorganic dust, and volatile chemicals,” according to a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine Committee (US) on Damp Indoor Spaces and Health.*
All of which can cause illness, negatively impact worker productivity, as well as increase worker absenteeism. We mentioned earlier that when moisture finds its way into surface pores, it cannot be drained out. But most building owners and managers assume it will, in time, simply dry up and the indoor dampness will dissipate along with the potential health-related problems it causes.
That may not be the case. According to the Dampness report referenced earlier, some fungi, molds, and bacteria can “do well in practically any indoor microenvironmental conditions,” both surviving and even thriving with minimal moisture. In other words, this is a problem that does not simply go away.
So, what can building owners/managers do if they suspect their building has a dampness problem? The first step they must take is to locate the specific problem areas. However, in most cases, harmful pathogens cannot be seen by the human eye, meaning the contamination is essentially hidden in the facility.
Fortunately, new “surface assessment” technologies developed and provided by OptiSolve® can locate these pathogens so that steps can be taken to eradicate them. Inspections have traditionally relied on ATP (adenosine triphosphate) testing. While ATP testing is helpful in suggesting the general area where microbial contamination may be present, there is high variability in the results and it cannot pinpoint exactly where potentially harmful pathogens remain on a surface. OptiSolve’s revolutionary imaging technology can – it makes the invisible visible. Thus, providing administrators with the ability to truly address issues and opportunities that will improve the health and safety of the facility and the people inside it.
*Published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2004