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Environmental Risks to Watch Out for in 2019

Each year brings a new set of environmental hazards, and 2019 is no exception. Habitational risks and professional exposures aren’t going anywhere this year. Investing in environmental insurance for your business can save you countless dollars and protect the health of your coworkers, employees and customers.

Let’s look at some of the hazards to avoid this year:

Habitational Risks

Nursing Homes

Managing indoor air quality (IAQ) in nursing homes and assisted living facilities can be a complicated, but extremely necessary task.

When IAQ is not regularly maintained, the results can be lethal. The elderly have weaker immune systems and are often more susceptible to infection and the long-term, adverse effects of poor IAQ, which include asthma, respiratory disease and even cancer.

Mold can accumulate from moisture in the carpets, HVAC units, bathrooms, and in any other damp, susceptible areas. Another threat is volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that result from paint, cleaning agents, adhesives, and other sneaky pollutants. Unpleasant odors or air that is too dry or too humid may be indicative of poor IAQ.

The majority of Americans spend 90% of their lives indoors. Maintaining respiratory health is crucial and IAQ should be closely monitored in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Hotels

Hotels are expected to provide comfort to weary travelers, and IAQ plays a big role in the quality of a guests’ stay.

The bad news: many people are not satisfied with the air they breathe when they check in for the night.

Studies have shown that more than 60 percent of frequent travelers complain about hotel air quality and report suffering from headaches, runny noses, coughing, sneezing, sore throats and other, similar ailments.

Many hotels have poor ventilation, lack insulation or use powerful cleaning agents in guest rooms. These issues put hotel clientele at elevated risk of inhaling something dangerous.

Implementing better IAQ policies that focus on air purification and filtration should be a top priority for hotels in 2019. Routine cleaning of HVAC systems, humidity reduction, ventilation maintenance and other best practices help ensure a higher IAQ standard.

Colleges and Universities

Older school buildings and facilities, like dorms, that are falling into disrepair may be a source of mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bacteria and other substances that may be harmful (and potentially fatal) to students — especially those with asthma.

Poor IAQ may affect students’ physical and cognitive health. Young students are more susceptible to pollutants than adults because their bodies and brains are still growing and developing.

Countless spend a major chunk of their college years in student housing. Ensuring the air they breathe is safe should be a basic responsibility.

Professional Exposures

Altering Plans

During construction, plans can change. Sometimes contractors have to work on the fly. When this happens, they may not communicate what they perceive to be minor changes or adjustments to the customer.

For example, an HVAC contractor may have to change the design of air ducts during installation to accommodate the mismeasurement of a wall. While this may not seem like a drastic change, the new design could then lead to moisture buildup and become a breeding ground for mold.

Mold is the one of the biggest factors affecting IAQ, and inhaling low quality or potentially toxic air on a regular basis has both short and long-term consequences.

Additionally, incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances — like cookers or heaters — is the most common cause of accidental exposure to carbon monoxide. While a professional should know the tricks of the trade, beware that oversights happen.

Leaks

In a perfect world, construction workers would never make mistakes during a home improvement project. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Poorly executed plumbing installation can result in leaks. Even small leaks can cause a substantial amount of mold to flourish, especially in bathrooms or kitchens.

If this happens, action should be taken immediately to ensure dangerous mold spores don’t accumulate. When conditions are ideal, it may take as little as 1 to 2 days for the mold to grow, but may not become visible until 3 weeks in, by which time IAQ can be compromised.

A poorly done roofing job can also result in leaks when there’s precipitation. Roof leaks can cause two different types of mold growth: limited or systemic.

Limited growth occurs when an attic has proper ventilation that gets rid of additional moisture, so the mold only grows in the area surrounding the leak.

Systemic growth occurs when the leak causes enough moisture to build up and cause mold growth throughout an entire area due to dampness in the air.

No matter which type of mold growth occurs, its presence can be dangerous to the health of anyone who inhales it, especially for extended periods of time.

Operating without adequate environmental insurance is a dangerous risk for property managers and contractors. Choosing to invest in environmental insurance will heighten your competitive advantage and reduce the chance of legal and regulatory liabilities.

In 2019, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for new and recurring circumstances that would greatly benefit from environmental insurance coverage.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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