October marks the beginning of the high-risk period for bushfires in Victoria. Over the next six to eight months, authorities will remain vigilant as hot temperatures and dry vegetation pose a serious threat.
The key ingredients for severe bushfires include extremely dry vegetation, a lack of humidity and strong winds. When these conditions combine, the risk of bushfires can become quite serious. While the fires themselves can be ignited by human activities such as welding, agricultural clearing, arcing, power line maintenance or cigarette and match disposal, they are sometimes started naturally, through a phenomenon known as ‘dry lighting’.
Due to the large swathes of wilderness that cover the northern and western parts of the state and the intense, hot temperatures that the region experiences in summer, Victoria is no stranger to the devastating consequences of these natural disasters.
Sadly, hundreds of people have died as a result of them, as have billions of animals. The impact bushfires have on the environment is also disastrous as they destroy nutrient-rich soils, wipe out plant species and release enormous quantities of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
The risk to human, animal and plant life is well documented, but one of the impacts that is regularly overlooked is how bushfires affect indoor air quality.
As we become more aware of the impact that a polluted environment can have, it’s more important than ever to prioritise thorough office cleaning for improved air quality. This can seem time consuming and exhausting but it is important as we enter bushfire season, so consider how a commercial office cleaning company in Melbourne could help you.
Airborne particulate matter (PM) is constantly circulating, this is composed of dust mites, pet dander, mould spores, viruses, moisture particles, gas particles and bacteria. However, bushfires produce large amounts of PM2.5 – particles that have a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller – and PM10 – particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres or less.
Research in the UK and Australia has shown that because these particles are so small, they can infiltrate indoor spaces and be inhaled deep into the lungs and internal tissues, where they can even enter the bloodstream. Prolonged exposure and inhalation of PM2.5 and PM10 can lead to serious health problems such as respiratory difficulties, heart conditions and asthma.
In addition to these particles, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs)and other harmful pollutants are released into the air.
The problem is that we can’t see these dangers. Carbon monoxide is both colourless and odourless, but it can be lethal in high concentrations. A poorly ventilated space can lead to a build up of this gas which may cause symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.
VOCs can also cause dizziness as well as allergy flare ups and eye irritation. Meanwhile, the lingering smell of smoke can cause coughing and wheezing, and those who have asthma may find it difficult to breathe.
Mitigating the impact on indoor air quality
So, how can these risks be minimised? There are a number of steps that can be taken to maintain high air quality during bushfire season in Victoria. Sealing windows and doors that open directly to the open air will reduce the likelihood of dangerous pollutants entering the working environment.
You can also consider investing in an air purification system as these can be very effective in removing PM from the environment. These purifiers suck air in and as it passes through, they filter out contaminants. There are endless options on the market for all price ranges, but some are more effective than others, so consulting your cleaning service provider for advice on this before you purchase is usually a good option.
As well as this, the environment should be cleaned regularly with responsible disinfectants, cleaners and solvents. Some chemical products can contain high amounts of VOCs which should be avoided. Cleaning products that are certified as having either a low VOC content or better yet, chemical free, should be used.
Staying on top of office cleaning during a stressful bushfire season can be difficult but it’s essential to protect the air quality in commercial environments, where employees spend long periods of time working or learning. It’s also an important factor to consider if you will have clients coming into your environment as stale, contaminated air does not give a good first impression.
There are a number of commercial office cleaning companies in Melbourne that can help you to manage all of these factors. As experts in the industry, their teams will be able to assess the air quality in the environment and identify a cleaning solution to improve it, using low VOC and chemical free products that you can trust.