Air purifiersCommercial Office Buildings and Retail Spaces

How Retail Store Air Quality Can Make You Sick

By February 22, 2017 No Comments
10 minutes to read

Retail store air quality may contain airborne contaminants that are adverse to good health.

The level of outdoor pollution is not only vital to good health for people who spend significant times outside, but it also affects the level of air quality inside commercial establishments. Studies have found that retail store air quality will often be worse when outdoor air pollution is at a high level, and that can affect store employees and patrons.

Related: Did You Know Cleaner Indoor Air Can Help Bring Your Retail Shop More Business?

“What we are finding through multiple studies is that retail store air quality can compromise worker productivity in the form of missed work days through illness,” stated Kevin Wood,Vice President Sales and Marketing. “And if retail spaces lack effective commercial air filtration devices, then airborne particulates will continue to worsen within that store, and you will start to see a corresponding increase in breathing illnesses related to poor indoor air quality.”

Recent Review of Retail Store Air Quality

A recent review of indoor air quality in retail stores titled, Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality in Retail Stores, shed some light on this issue.

The authors of the review examined multiple online databases and studies related to the quality of air at retail stores throughout the U.S. and around the world.  They focused on factors such as air filtration, ventilation, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter and microbiological contaminants.

The review found that the ventilation rates in retail shops were lower than the ventilation rates found in bars, restaurants and healthcare facilities. The authors speculated that the reason retail stores had a lower ventilation rate was due to the presence of exhaust fans in bars and restaurants.

In addition, retail stores that featured open doors, or doors that opened frequently due to patron entrance and exit, were found to have much higher airborne contaminants due to infiltration from outdoor air.

Ventilation rates were also affected by the existing HVAC system, as well as by the amount of air that was leaking in and out of the store based on building construction.

The Importance of Air Change Rates

One of the factors that the study touched upon was the air change rate within retail buildings. Per a piece on The Engineering ToolBox website titled, Air Change Rates in Typical Rooms and Buildings, an air change rate is defined as the rate at which the air within a space is filtered or replaced by new air in a 60-minute time period.

Related: What Office Managers Can Do to Maintain Their Air Quality

Typically, the air within a retail space should be changed or cleaned between six to 10 times, which would mean an air change rate range of 6-10.

When air stagnates and is not filtered within a retail store at this recommended rate, then air pollutants can multiply and spread, resulting in poor indoor air quality. This is why retail shops that implement an effective air filtration strategy will have an air change rate of 12-16.

The owners of retail shops who want to lower the number of particulates in the air must also ensure that they repair all leak sources within their building to prevent outdoor air from lowering the air quality within their business.

It’s also important for retail storeowners to remember that the number of occupants within their space will also affect the air change rate. The more people that frequent a retail store, the greater the air change rate has to be to account for the fact that there are more people consuming oxygen and more people bringing in pollutants from the outside.

The EPA Weighs in on Indoor Air Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tackled the issue of indoor air quality in commercial buildings, and has identified five main factors that affect indoor air pollution:

  • Indoor sources
  • Outdoor sources
  • Ventilation
  • Airflow patterns
  • Air filtration systems

Common indoor sources of poor air quality include cigarette smoke, combustion from furnaces and generators, condensation, chemicals, contaminated HVAC systems and mold.

Common outdoor sources include local traffic, gas stations, power plants, incinerators, restaurant emissions, pesticide spraying, roof drainage, fertilizer and sewer gas.

Ventilation refers to the amount of clean air that flows through an indoor space, which affects the level of particulates in the air. Ventilation can be enhanced with air filtration devices for maximum effectiveness.

Airflow patterns are the pathways by which air enters an indoor space. By understanding these airflow patterns and locations, retail shop owners can identify sources of possible leakage that can affect the way contaminants enter their stores.

And finally, air filtration systems are any devices in an indoor space that filter harmful contaminants. Given the amount of polluted air that enters a retail store, it is nearly impossible for an existing ventilation system to eliminate airborne particulates without the aid of air filtration devices.

Minimum recommended efficiencies for air filtration are published by ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Camfil USA, a major manufacturer or air filters and air filtration products, recommends the use of filters with a MERV of 13 to protect the people and products in retail environments. MERV is the minimum efficiency reporting value when the filter is evaluated under the guidance of a Standard for testing filters as published by ASHRAE.

How Camfil USA Air Filtration Products Handle Retail Store Air Quality

At Camfil, we know that retail store air quality can play a big part in worker efficiency and productivity, which is why we will continue to provide you with useful information about indoor air quality issues in commercial industries.

For more than 50 years we have been at the forefront of clean air solutions for commercial facilities, and our products remain the most affordable and energy efficient on the market. We look forward to helping retail business with indoor air quality filtration products. Learn more here. Download case study


Lynne Laake

Camfil USA Air Filters

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