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Could Enhanced Indoor Air Quality Safety Regulations Be On the Horizon?

Most everyone is aware of the hazards of asbestos and the strict regulations that govern its use. The same is true for lead paint and other known carcinogens. For decades, the hazards of inhaling these toxins as well as many VOCs have been documented. Over the years, many lawsuits have been filed, and won, by individuals who have acquired cancers and/or developed respiratory conditions that impair their quality of life. These lawsuits have prompted limited regulatory action and resulted in the establishment of only a handful of OSHA standards that builders and employers must follow. Indeed, only California and New Jersey have notable indoor air quality regulations for the workplace.

However, that may be about to change thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently, 39 professors from around the world, including the University of Colorado, have proposed establishing new indoor air quality standards that would theoretically reduce the risk of spreading pathogens in the workplace and within residential structures. These professors have significant expertise in mechanical and environmental engineering, medicine, and other related fields. They argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call and highlights the hazards that the modern workforce and general public face on a daily basis.

Their proposal is for the Food and Drug Administration to implement standards that would require the installation of enhanced ventilation and air cleaning systems. These systems would ostensibly minimize the amount of biological and chemical contamination within a structure’s air supply. The professors recommend that the FDA establish standards tailored to govern indoor air quality within both residential structures and commercial enterprises.

As with defective Chinese-manufactured drywall, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the shortcomings of many safety regulations and the need for better defined indoor air quality standards. For more than a year, legislators around the country have debated everything from mask mandates to social distancing guidelines. And, as with the banning of asbestos, it is unlikely that significant changes will occur quickly and across the board. Rather, the discussion has started and the initial groundwork is being laid for studies and exploration into possible methods for improving indoor air quality. In the long-term, this could result in regulatory reforms and effective safety regulations that reduce the risk of workers acquiring asbestosis, lung cancer, COPD, asthma, and other respiratory conditions in the workplace.

For more information about workplace safety standards, contact Sloat, Nicholson and Hoover, P.C. at (303) 447-1144.

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