Keeping Dust to a Minimum in Health Care Settings

Patient care goes far beyond medical procedures and doling out medicines. Ensuring a high quality interior environment that does not irritate airways is a responsibility that initially falls on building engineers and then on maintenance personnel. There are several ways to keep the amount of dust in many settings at an appropriate level.

The materials used in constructing a health care setting’s design all rest on the floor. Flooring installation occurs first, Other materials, such as cabinets, walls, railings, bathroom fixtures, and everything else that makes up a clinic, medical office, or nursing care facility can also affect the air quality patients breathe. Indoor air quality is often crucial to a patient’s outlook and recovery. Health care workers also benefit when levels are high and can suffer when quality plummets.

Keeping the air’s dust content under control also helps maintain sterile conditions. Dust that settles on surgical equipment, intubation devices, and other medical instruments can severely and negatively affect patient outcomes. Dust can easily carry other contaminants with it, including microbes, mold spores, inorganic substances, and the like. Even metal shavings can end up in the air and contaminate areas, rendering their once-sterile state highly contaminated and even detrimental to patient health.

One company, Trimaco, makes a flooring material that not only minimizes the amount of dust in the air but also does double duty by performing as an excellent flame retardant surface protection. The process of evacuating patients from a building in which a fire alarm has sounded is much safer when the floors do not also pose an additional risk. Flame retardant materials are often recommended in locations where individuals will sleep or where mobility-impaired people might reside.

Other useful steps in the control of the amount of airborne dust include using microfiber dusting cloths, HEPA filters on air exchange units and vents, and strategically placed air scrubbers. Negative air pressure units that separate one area of a building from another can also prove beneficial when renovations must take place. Once dust enters an area, removing it becomes quite difficult. Keeping dust and microscopic fibers from ever entering is often much easier.

Ensuring that the air brought in from outside remains as clean as possible only requires the use of HEPA filters, although carbon-activated ones can also play a role in minimizing contaminants. Air vents in all locations also require regular cleaning and removal of any dust.

Housekeeping staff can begin using dampened microfiber cloths to clean surfaces in patient rooms, while also cleaning floors with similarly constructed anti-dust mops. Dirt-grabbing mats at exterior doors reduces the mud and dirt brought into a clinical setting. Reducing this before individuals can carry soil into other areas means less work must occur to later remove it and clean contaminated locations.

Effective measures that help to maintain the environment shared by patients and health care workers, as well as family and friends who visit, may seem over-zealous. However, there once was a time when hand-washing between patients also seemed unwarranted. That time now shows how important control of environmental factors really is, and how lapses in such care can harm those who depend on health care professionals in their most vulnerable states. All levels of care, from housekeeping up to the most skilled surgeons, must do their part to ensure that health care environments pose as few risks as possible.