Local News

Cary Company Helps Workplaces Clear The Air

Posted October 31, 2001

— If a contaminated package is opened in the mailroom of your office building, are you safe? That is a question a lot of people are asking these days in light of recent anthrax scares.

A Cary company tests office buildings to see just how fast contaminants travel, and specializes in making sure the air in workplaces stays clean.

Tom Smith says it is easy for powder-like substances to spread throughout a building. Smith's corporation, Exposure Control Technologies, helps companies figure out how to keep their staff members safe.

"A lot of times we find that ventilation systems don't provide adequate capture. Those materials are exhausted from the building and they're introduced back into the air supply system and then infiltrate the whole building so everyone becomes exposed," he says.

To help prevent exposure, Smith says that it is important to understand how a contaminant travels.

In a demonstration, Smith released and tracked a contaminant through his building with computers and sensors. It took 2.5 minutes to make its way down a hall to a computer -- potentially contaminating everyone in the building.

Alarms sound when the contaminant reaches a certain location.

Anthrax scares have created a new market for products like ventilation hoods, which pull contaminants out of the air, preventing them from spreading.

"You can actually take your bad mail, put it beside the waste chutes and you can have it bagged up and it can be destroyed in a proper manner," explains Brian Logson of Flow Services Inc.

Smith says using devices like the ventilation hoods buys safety and peace of mind.

"When a hazard is introduced in a facility, we have some high assurance, some high confidence that the people will be protected from exposure," he says.

The technology to test for contaminants and to create sterile ventilation areas has existed for a long time. It has typically been used by pharmaceutical companies and others who knowingly deal with dangerous chemicals. Now these scientists and engineers are getting calls from post offices and companies concerned about the air quality of their mailrooms.


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