Healthy Computing: Clean the Air

Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related injuries with
Healthy Computing Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay
healthier while working.

The recent concern that laser printers may produce pollutants that can lodge deeply in our lungs reminds us that the air in our work and home environments is potentially harmful. Materials and equipment in office buildings and homes usually contain micro dust particles and a chemical brew of volatile organic compounds (e.g., formaldehyde, benzene and tricholorethylene) that are outgassed from paper, inks, furniture, carpet, paints, wall coverings, cleaning materials, and floor tiles. These gasses stay in the rooms where there is limited air circulation due to sealed buildings or closed windows. Copiers and laser printers add to, and activate, this mix by producing microscopic dust particles and sometimes ozone. Indoor air pollution is often greater than outdoor. Reduce pollution and enhance your health when you Clean the Air.

How to Clean the Air

After renovation or installation of furniture or carpets, be sure to allow for air circulation by opening windows and doors. Explore some of the following strategies to clean the air:

  • Ventilate your work area (open a window or door, if possible).
  • Move copier/laser printers to a well-ventilated space and/or place
    an exhaust fan near the printer.
  • Turn off copier or laser printers when not in use (purchase new
    equipment that is energy efficient and shuts down when not in use).
  • Install an air purifier/filter.

Place plants in your office and home to help clear the indoor smog and remove the volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The following plants all mop-up VOCs and some gobble up specific chemicals in this brew.*

  • Azaleas, rubber plants, tulips, poinsettia, philodendron and bamboo
  • Areca palm (toluene)
  • Lady palm (ammonia)
  • Peace lily and chrysanthemum (acetone, methanol, trichlorethylene,benzene, ethylacetate)

If you work in a sealed environment, take a walk at lunch or ask coworkers to have a walking meeting so that you can get out in the fresh air.

*Read: How To Grow Fresh Air by Bill Wolverton, Penguin, 1997.


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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021