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AIR QUALITY Breathe easy


It’s ubiquitous, invisible, and seemingly boring – but the quality of the air in a casino can make a significant difference to the well-being of customers and staff, as Barnaby Page reports


buildings as represented by concentrations of pollutants and thermal (temperature and relative humidity) conditions that affect the health, comfort and performance of occupants”.


Pollutant levels


It’s important because people spend about 90% of their time indoors, where pollutant levels can be as much as five times higher than outdoors, and indeed the recent Air Quality Life Index produced by the University of Chicago identified air pollution as the world’s biggest killer. And for businesses like casinos, maintaining good air


quality is more than just an abstract matter of social responsibility. Poor air quality can affect reputation, customer satisfaction and retention, and employee performance; it can also lead to liability and compliance issues. Impacts on affected individuals can be both long-term


(chronic) and short-term (acute); they can arise from a single exposure to a pollutant, or be the result of long-term exposure. Common short-term symptoms include headaches, sinus congestion, coughs, skin or eye irritation, nausea and fatigue; more serious longer-term issues include cancer – the most common major chronic condition associated with poor IAQ – as well as heart disease and respiratory diseases. Poor IAQ is usually the primary cause of Sick Building


vchalup/Adobe Stock B 94 JANUARY 2019


ad news came twice last year for Caesars from an unexpected and seemingly innocuous source: its Cherokee Casino Resort in North Carolina, and earlier the Laughlin Hotel & Casino in Nevada, were both investigated for suspected outbreaks


of Legionnaire’s disease. The investigations were routine – this severe form of pneumonia is always checked out by health authorities – and the countermeasures well-established: disinfecting water and improving water management to prevent the disease spreading through microscopic droplets, notifying guests who might have been exposed. But they highlighted a problem that faces all casinos, in common with any large public facilities. Legionnaires’ disease is spread not by individuals, but by the building itself, and it is just one of the more spectacular ways in which management of indoor air quality (IAQ) can have a significant effect on businesses. Air quality is a broad term; one dictionary defines it as “the degree to which air is suitable or clean enough for humans to remain healthy”. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, an influential authority on the subject, pins it down more precisely as “the quality of the air inside


Syndrome (SBS), typified by headaches and respiratory difficulties, particularly in white-collar workers. Other conditions caused by specific factors in the air are often grouped together as building-related illness (BRI); these include hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever as well as Legionnaires’.


Linking specific conditions with particular IAQ factors


may be difficult, because individuals’ reactions vary, also people are exposed for different periods of time in different parts of the premises, and because some pollutants – for example tobacco smoke – have both acute and chronic effects. If a smoky gaming floor is causing asthmatic customers’ condition to worsen, improved ventilation can quickly solve that problem, but it won’t remedy any long- term effects that prolonged exposure to the secondhand smoke might have had on staff, for example. Perhaps less well-known is the contribution of IAQ to


employee performance. As the EPA puts it: “Significant measurable changes in people’s ability to concentrate or perform mental or physical tasks have been shown to result from modest changes in temperature and relative humidity [and] similar effects are associated with indoor pollution due to lack of ventilation or the presence of pollution sources. Estimates of performance losses from poor indoor air quality for all buildings suggest a 2-4% loss on average.”


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