Campus Health and Safety
May 2012
Let's Get Some Fresh Air While Staying Dry

It is spring time in Clear Water Bay.  Everything is hiding shyly in the fog.  While many of us are marveling at the heavenly-like campus view, the extreme humid and foggy conditions have, in fact, presented some undesirable indoor air quality issues that trouble many campus residents.

Under the extreme weather conditions, many residents are forced to shut their windows in quarters and to keep their dehumidifiers running tirelessly.  The closing of windows has brought reasonably good control of the humidity indoor but yet, compromising more importantly the fresh air supply.   Insufficient ventilation is a common cause of the accumulation of indoor air contaminants and radon in particular.  Radon is a naturally occurring, odourless, colorless, radioactive, noble gas produced by the radioactive decay of radium-226.  Exposure to high levels of radon and its progenies has been identified as the main cause of lung cancer cases among miners.  Although residents' exposure to radon is, in general, many times less than that of the miners, it is a prudent approach to maintain ones' exposure to a level as low as reasonably achievable.   On top of radon exposure, residents are reminded not to overlook the importance of other relatively lesser known indoor air pollutants such as formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds.  Some of these contaminants are capable of causing serious imminent health impact.  Residents' exposure to elevated level of formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds could trigger allergic response and irritation to the respiratory system. The bodily response to these irritants could be serious under certain circumstances.  These contaminants are found in many household and decorative items such as books, pressed-wood products, particle board, carpet, furniture, upholstery in furniture materials.  Improving the ventilation is the only way to combat their accumulation and to minimize their impact on residents' health.

In offices, whether the offices' windows are shut or open, sufficient amount of fresh air is delivered to each room by the Mechanical Ventilation Air Conditioning (MVAC) system to provide comfort to the occupants and dilute any air contaminants which may exist.  At home, natural ventilation is perhaps the only way to dilute air contaminants indoor.  Opening window regularly is a relatively simple but effective way of controlling indoor air contaminants.    While trying to keep the humidity indoor in check, let’s not forget to open windows periodically to dilute the indoor air pollutants.  Only until then can residents enjoy a comfortable and healthy living environment.

We might have tried very hard to keep moisture away from our quarters and dormitories for the last few weeks but don't forget to open windows regularly to improve ventilation.