Having the best ergonomic products in your office is important for employee health, safety, and comfort. However, poor indoor air quality can offset the benefits of those products by exposing your employees to toxic fumes from that same furniture and equipment. Those toxic fumes are VOCs (volatile organic compounds) introduced during the manufacturing process.
The indoor air quality in office buildings is often compromised by the off-gassing of hazardous chemicals found in office equipment and furniture. To ensure the health and safety of your employees, you'll want to choose furniture that's both ergonomic and VOC-free.
Health Effects From Exposure to VOCs
VOCs commonly found in furniture and other office products include:
- ethylene glycol
- methylene chloride
- xylene and more
These toxic chemicals are often found in plywood, particleboard, MDF (medium-density fiberboard), and other pressed or manufactured wood products. Products such as paints, varnishes, and waxes that are used in furniture finishes often include VOCs, too.
VOC exposure can cause short- and long-term negative effects on health. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some of those effects include:
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
- Headaches and memory impairment
- Vision disorders and dizziness
- Loss of coordination
- Damage to the kidneys, liver, and central nervous system
- Cancer in animals
Some VOCs are also known or suspected to cause cancer in humans. There's plenty of reason to invest in office furniture that has earned an EPA indoor air quality certification!
Who Regulates Indoor Air Quality?
The EPA has taken on the responsibility to improve indoor air quality in offices. It uses the Government Services Administration's (GSA’s) federal procurement process to encourage furniture manufacturers to reduce or eliminate pollution in their manufacturing processes and their products. It recommends approved private sector ecolabels that require manufacturers to follow strict eco-friendly processes to earn an IAQ certificate.
Only products that comply with those standards and earn a certificate are purchased for government use. Office managers and distributors can follow the government's lead as a guide for finding furniture that won't negatively affect indoor air quality. By purchasing only certified office furniture, you'll help ensure a safe, healthy, and comfortable environment for your employees and visitors.
Earning an EPA Indoor Air Quality Certification
SCS Global Services is a third-party certification body that works with independent approved laboratories. Those laboratories are world leaders in product testing and how products affect indoor air quality.
The testing laboratories place a piece of ergonomic furniture or equipment in an otherwise empty room with clean air. They then take measurements of the air quality in the room over a period of time. They're looking for any indications of a drop in air quality or the presence of VOCs. Furniture or equipment that doesn't negatively impact air quality in the room will receive an IAQ certificate.
An assigned SCS auditor works with each manufacturer to guide it through the certification process. That process includes gathering and reviewing all relevant data about the manufacturing process, submitting product samples for testing, and correcting any problems that are found. Once a manufacturer successfully completes the process, it receives a certificate as well as a listing in the SCS Green Products Guide. An SCS certificate is recognized by both the EPA and GSA.
The Importance of EPA Indoor Air Quality Certification
The government takes IAQ certification seriously enough that the GSA requires it for all furniture purchased under government contracts. Do your employees deserve any less?
Providing them with ergonomic office furniture that isn't off-gassing toxic chemicals will lead to a safer, more comfortable working environment. Choosing furniture with an EPA indoor air quality certification helps ensure that kind of productive workspace. It will also improve your ROI by reducing insurance claims and improving employee retention.
To find certified green office products, consult the SCS Green Products database. To learn more about choosing furniture that provides both comfort and ROI, click on the button below to download a free e-book guide to ergonomic furniture.