Poor indoor air quality is a serious problem in offices and other workplaces, but do you know that warehouses and distribution centers can have among the worst IAQ of all workplaces? It’s great to be able to order a product online and have it delivered the same day, but with all the convenience comes challenges. Conditions in these types of facilities can be especially dangerous, if not controlled, for workers, due to dust, mould, moisture, high humidity, and chemicals and fumes such as carbon dioxide that can be present indoors. So how can we improve indoor air quality of warehouses & distribution centres?
In this article, we will discuss the importance of air quality in warehouses and distribution centers, and we will offer solutions for ensuring that your facility has adequate air filtration and ventilation and is sustainable. If you work in, or manage a warehouse, distribution centre, or fulfillment centre, it is important to take steps to improve your indoor air quality. Let’s look at how you can improve the indoor air quality of your facility.
How do warehouses cause pollution?
Warehouses can cause pollution in several ways. For example, the trucks that bring goods to and from warehouses produce emissions that can pollute the air. Forklifts used inside warehouses can also emit and distribute harmful particles and gasses inside facilities. Machinery used for sorting and automation can produce harmful particles inside a warehouse. Additionally, when warehouses are not properly maintained, they can leak harmful chemicals into the environment.
What are the environmental impacts of warehouses and distribution centres?
The environmental impacts of warehouses and distribution centres are not often considered when we think about these facilities. However, their large size and use of energy and resources mean that they can have a significant impact on the environment.
Here are some of the ways in which warehouses can negatively impact the environment:
- Warehouses release a large amount of greenhouse gases into the air by use of fossil fuels used to power the machinery and equipment in the facilities. Emissions from warehouses and distribution centres have a negative impact on outdoor and indoor air quality and contribute to climate change
- Water: a large amount of water used in the facilities can cause problems when there is drought. Chemicals and pollutants from warehouses can end up in waterways, where they can have a negative impact on drinking water, wildlife, and food supplies when contaminated water reaches agricultural areas and centres of food production
- Waste: a significant amount of waste is produced by most warehouses. It mostly ends up in landfill sites, where it can release harmful gases into the atmosphere. The waste can also get into the ground, contaminating soil and water supplies
What are the sources of indoor air pollution in warehouses and distribution centres?
Sources of indoor air pollution in warehouses and distribution centres include:
- Fiber from cardboard boxes and packaging
- Flooring materials can increase the collection of dust and chemicals, emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air
- Wall and ceiling materials containing VOCs
- Paints and coatings that contain and release toxic materials into the air
- Toxic chemicals in adhesives and sealants used in storage and packaging
- Harmful chemicals, and greenhouse gases released from diesel and gasoline-powered forklifts, machinery, trucks, and engines
- Poor air filtration from the use of low-quality, unsustainable, inefficient air filters
- Poor ventilation due to an inadequate amount of fans, improper utilization of space restricting airflow i.e. too much clutter from equipment and goods, inadequate air changes per hour, per person. All of this can trap harmful particles and lead to poor health
- Pollution that produces fine particulate matter, PM2.5, PM1. For example, when inhaled, PM1 particles travel to the deepest area of the lungs, can damage the inner walls of arteries, penetrate tissue in the cardiovascular system, and potentially spread to organs contributing to heart attacks, lung cancer, dementia, emphysema, edema
Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, Health Canada www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/indoor-air-contaminants.html
More on warehouses: camfil.com/en-ca/industries/logistic/warehouse–distribution
How can warehouses improve indoor air quality?
There are a few key things to consider when designing a ventilation system for a warehouse or distribution center:
- Ensure that there is sufficient airflow. The system should be designed to provide fresh air to the space, and it should also be able to remove stale air, dissipate harmful particles and fumes from the facility. An adequate amount of air changes per hour, per person, must be maintained
- Ventilation and air filtration should be efficient to minimize energy costs, reduce pollution, and remove the maximum amount of harmful particles from the air
- The system should be designed with space constraints in mind. However, it is important to prioritize ventilation and airflow over the need for usable floor space in these facilities
- Can areas of concern be curtained off and cleaned which would decrease the cost of a solution as opposed to cleaning the entire warehouse?
Source: Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety
Improving air filtration and ventilation will help to remove pollutants from the air and keep them from building up. High-quality air filters and portable air purifiers can remove many of the harmful pollutants that are present in the air, including dust, VOCs, mould, fumes, and chemicals. It is also important to keep your work area clean.
How can warehouse and distribution centre ventilation be improved?
There are a few ways to improve warehouse ventilation. One way is by increasing the amount of air that is circulated through the space. This can be done by installing additional fans or by opening windows and doors more often. Another way to improve ventilation is by ensuring no obstacles are blocking airflow. This includes keeping storage shelves and racks clean and not overloaded.
Fans are very important instruments for proper warehouse ventilation. They help to circulate air and prevent harmful particles from collecting on machinery, floors, walls, and ceilings. In addition, poor air circulation can lead to poor indoor air quality, and higher humidity levels, which can produce mould and make it difficult for your air filtration system to operate at an optimal level. If you’re not sure how many fans you need or what type of fans are best, consult a professional to help you determine the appropriate number and type of fans for your facility.
By following this advice, you can improve the indoor air quality of your warehouse and create a safer and more pleasant work environment. In turn, this can lead to increased productivity and fewer health problems.
How can warehouses and distribution centres be more sustainable?
Warehouses and distribution centres can be more sustainable in many ways:
- Use energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs and CFL (compact fluorescents) *The Government of Australia states that warehouses and distribution centres can save up to 80% on their energy use related to lighting
- Use recycled materials for construction and renovation, compost waste
- Use green materials in packaging, use less packaging
- Reduce the use of toxic cleaning substances
- Reduce consumption of materials
- Use electric forklifts, trucks, and machinery to eliminate harmful emissions
- Use VFD (variable frequency drive) fans that can be run at 0=100%, saving energy when less staff is present
- Warehouses have a large space on their roofs, solar panels should be installed and used as much as possible
- Use high-quality, high-efficiency, energy-saving air filters
- Reduce carbon footprint with carpooling and public transit incentive programs for staff
What is green distribution and warehousing?
Green distribution and warehousing involve using environmentally-friendly practices throughout the supply chain, from production to transportation. This includes using recycled materials, reducing consumption, using energy-efficient technologies, sourcing sustainable suppliers, and using renewable energy.
Sustainable air filters can go a long way in reducing a warehouse or distribution centre’s carbon footprint and can save money for the enterprise. By using highly efficient air filters, warehouses can immediately cut their carbon emissions and lower their carbon footprint. Longer-lasting air filters result in far fewer filter changes. This cuts down on the amount of labour required and reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released in the delivery and disposal of air filters, all while saving energy. Read more about it here: How to achieve sustainability with air filters and reduce your carbon footprint
By implementing green distribution and warehousing practices, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, save money, and be good corporate citizens. In addition, these practices can help create a more sustainable future for everyone.
Green roofs for warehouses and distribution centres
What is a green roof?
A green roof is a roof covered with plants or trees and usually includes a waterproofing layer beneath the vegetation.
What are the benefits of having a green roof?
The benefits of having a green roof are improved insulation, reduced energy costs, and improved indoor and outdoor air quality both indoor and outdoor. They are also aesthetically pleasing.
According to the EPA, “Green roofs provide shade, remove heat from the air, and reduce temperatures of the roof surface and surrounding air. Using green roofs in cities or other built environments with limited vegetation can moderate the heat island effect, particularly during the day. Green roof temperatures can be 30–40°F (1.1 – 4.4°C) lower than those of conventional roofs and can reduce city-wide ambient temperatures by up to 5°F. In addition, green roofs can reduce building energy use by 0.7% compared to conventional roofs, reducing peak electricity demand.”
For warehouses and distribution centres, a great benefit of a green roof is that it can absorb pollutants and harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide. By reducing the amount of pollution in the air, reducing energy consumption, and lowering temperatures, green roofs can help to improve the overall health of a community and lead to a more sustainable future.
Source: EPA, Green Roofs
Solutions for improving indoor air quality
Warehouses and distribution centres can significantly improve the indoor air quality of their facilities using products such as the CamCleaner Horizontal® to remove excess particles and molecular pollutants/gasses using the principle of unducted air cleaner technology https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50qOyKentxI (EMBED THIS VIDEO)
An example of a highly-efficient air filter that uses less energy is the Hi-Flo ES ®
Another solution is the CamCarb CG®. A corrosion-resistant molecular filter filled with Camfil-activated alumina or activated carbon. It’s a versatile gas-phase air filter installed in supply, recirculation, and exhaust air systems. The design provides the best total cost of ownership for the removal of corrosive, odorous, and irritant gases.
Finally, the CityCarb I® is a compact V-Bank air filter with particulate and molecular media to remove solid and gaseous contaminants in one filter stage. It can be used in existing installations to remove medium concentrations of most external and internal pollutants with ePM1 70% efficiency according to ISO16890.
For further information on how to improve indoor air quality in warehouses and distribution centres, please use this contact form and an air filtration expert from Camfil will answer any questions you may have.
About Camfil Canada Clean Air Solutions
For more than half a century, Camfil has been helping people breathe cleaner air. As a leading manufacturer of premium clean air solutions, we provide commercial and industrial systems for air filtration and air pollution control that improve worker and equipment productivity, minimize energy use, and benefit human health and the environment. Read more about Camfil Canada
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