Designated Cleaner Air Rooms

Introduction and Overview

Individuals with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities have identified the availability of designated cleaner air rooms and paths of travel in public and commercial buildings as highly important for improving access. The Designated Cleaner Air Rooms Committee examined the rationale for having Designated Cleaner Air Rooms, the types of buildings or occupancies that may be appropriate for having such rooms, the minimum criteria for such a designation, and who would benefit from having these rooms.

Promising Practices

In November 2001 the State of California adopted a Cleaner Air Symbol and Conditions of Use in its building code to identify areas in publicly funded or leased facilities owned by the State of California that are accessible to and useable by people who are adversely impacted by airborne chemicals or particulate(s) and/or the use of certain electrical fixtures or devices.(1) The symbol can be used when minimum conditions established in the code are met. Use of the designation is voluntary.

Click for a fact sheet on the California Cleaner Air Symbol and Criteria

See 1117B.5.11 Cleaner air symbol (page 109) of the California Code of Regulations for the code language: (See Appendix A)

Recommended Actions

The Committee was charged with

  1. reviewing the California symbol and criteria and investigating where it has been implemented, how it has worked, and what modifications and improvements, if any, are necessary to recommend broader usage;
  2. developing and promoting a national Cleaner Air Symbol and Conditions of Use as appropriate; and
  3. defining the scope of guidelines for creating an ideal zone (room and path of travel) hereafter referred to as a Clean Air Room in buildings for people with chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities.

During the project, the scope of work was expanded to include a brief discussion of accommodations for people with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities to address the needs of those individuals for whom a Cleaner Air Room would not provide adequate access or for those situations when such a designation would not be possible or feasible. Resources that address access and accommodations for people with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities at work, at school, at public meetings, and in hospitals are included at the end of this report.

Committee Recommendations

  • The Committee highly recommends that the Access Board and/or the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) fund or seek funding for FY2006 to develop specifications for designing and constructing a Clean Air Room and Path of Travel, the ideal or model room. This project is a natural outgrowth of the work of the other three committees.
  • The Committee proposes a Pilot Project for FY2006 to implement a national Cleaner Air Symbol, as promulgated by the State of California, and Conditions of Use, as modified in the National Cleaner Air Signage, Conditions of Use section below, in select public and commercial buildings such as independent living centers, disability organizations, schools and other educational institutions, public meeting places, or other business or government entities. The Committee recommends that one or more committee members in conjunction with the Access Board and/or the National Institute of Building Sciences assist in its implementation, track its use, analyze how well it has worked, and determine whether modifications or improvements are necessary prior to recommending promotion nationally. This same group would also examine implementation of the California Signage which is expected to take place during the same time frame.
  • The Committee recommends that the Access Board, or a committee created by the Board, identify, review, summarize, and publish best practices for accommodations for people with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities on the website. Such a project was previously proposed by Access Board officials and discussed with members of this Committee but was not part of the charge of the current project.

National Cleaner Air Signage

Background

In November 2001 the State of California adopted the California Cleaner Air Symbol, California Building Code, Title 24, Parts 2 and 12, 1117B.5.11ff., which established a symbol and criteria for conditions of use to identify a room, facility, and paths of travel that are accessible to and useable by people who are adversely impacted by airborne chemicals or particulate(s) and/or the use of electrical fixtures and/or devices. Installation and use of the Cleaner Air Symbol is on a voluntary basis in state buildings. The Committee learned that the Cleaner Air Symbol has yet to be implemented in California although members of our group are aware of individuals in California and in other states who are using the symbol as a means of advocating for or obtaining individual access needs.

The California Cleaner Air Symbol and Conditions of Use were also proposed for adoption at the meeting of the Accredited Standards Committee A117 on Architectural Features and Site Design of Public Buildings and Residential Structures for Persons with Disabilities in December 2001.(2) The Cleaner Air Symbol received a favorable vote. It was later dropped prior to the issuance of the final standard in 2003: International Code Council, American National Standard-Accessible and Useable Buildings and Facilities, ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003. The Cleaner Air Symbol is expected to be reintroduced for consideration during a new standard cycle that will begin shortly. The Standard must be adopted by a state or locality to be enforceable.

The Committee also discussed the identification of state buildings in California that might qualify for the Cleaner Air Symbol either due to a building's unique ability to meet the implementation criteria, or the need to make public meeting rooms accessible for those with chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities. Committee members are also aware of the need to encourage residents of California who may need to access state buildings to seek to implement the Cleaner Air Symbol.

National Cleaner Air Signage

Purpose

To provide voluntary guidelines for a Cleaner Air Symbol that can be used nationally or adapted for state and local use.

Proposed Language

National Cleaner Air Symbol: The national symbol shall be the standard used to identify a room, facility, and paths of travel that are more accessible to and useable by people who are adversely impacted by airborne pollutants, such as those with chemical sensitivities, asthma, and other respiratory conditions, and/or people who are adversely impacted by electromagnetic fields from electrical fixtures and equipment such as those with electromagnetic sensitivities.

The Symbol will comply with the specifications as described in the California code.

When the Cleaner Air designation symbol is used, the following requirements must be met:

  • The symbol and text, "Cleaner Air" is displayed within a minimum 6-inch square
  • The Cleaner Air Symbol is shown as either a negative or positive image.
  • The symbol and text are posted in either black and white, or in Federal Blue and white. When blue is used, Federal Blue Color No. 15090, Federal Standard 595B, is used.
  • There is at least a 70% color contrast between the backgrounds of the sign and the surface that it is mounted on.

Conditions of Use

The Cleaner Air Symbol may be posted to identify the room and path of travel if there is verification that the room, facility, and path of travel to the room meet all of the Cleaner Air Requirements as indicated below:

  • No Smoking
  • Fragrance-Free
  • Pesticide-Free (Indoors and Outdoors)
  • Least Toxic/Risk Cleaning Products
  • No Recent Construction or Remodeling Including Carpet Installation
  • Cell phones turned off
  • Ability to turn off or unplug computers and other electrical equipment by occupant or staff
  • Ability to turn off fluorescent lighting by occupant or staff
  • Ability to adjust temperature and air flow by occupant or staff, or the availability of operable window(s)

Paths of Travel

Every effort should be made to make the Paths of Travel as accessible as possible for those with multiple chemical and/or electromagnetic sensitivities even though the paths of travel might not meet all of the criteria of the Cleaner Air Room. It is important that the Path of Travel from the building entrance to the Cleaner Air Room be as short as possible. The building entrance should also be fully accessible to those with mobility and other impairments.

Restrooms

If possible, restrooms that are already fully accessible to those with mobility and other impairments should be designated for use by those individuals using the Cleaner Air Room. These restrooms should be located along the path of travel or as close as possible to the Cleaner Air Room. The restrooms should meet as many of the criteria as possible. The restrooms should prohibit smoking and be free of perfumes, fragranced products, air fresheners, deodorizers, and pesticides. Cleaning should be done with the same least toxic products used in the Cleaner Air Room. Cell phones should be turned off along the path of travel and in the restrooms.

Contact Information

Contact Information for the building/facilities manager or the designated agent responsible for maintaining and/or recording activity in the Cleaner Air Room should be posted at the Cleaner Air Room and at the accessible entrance, if possible, and be readily available to anyone seeking additional information by telephone, fax, e-mail, or mail.

Maintaining a Cleaner Air Record Log

A log shall be maintained on site, accessible to the public either in person or by telephone, fax, e-mail, mail or other accessible means as requested. One or more individuals shall be designated to maintain the log. The log shall record any product or practice used in the designated Cleaner Air Room, the path of travel, and accessible restrooms, as well as scheduled activities that may impact the Cleaner Air designation. The log shall also include the product label and Material Safety Data Sheet(s), as available, for any products used. Note, however, that neither the MSDS nor the product label provides complete information on product ingredients or their potential health effects.

Removal of the Symbol

If the path of travel, room and/or facility restrooms identified by the Cleaner Air Symbol should temporarily or permanently cease to meet the minimum conditions as set forth above, the Cleaner Air symbol shall be removed and shall not be replaced until the minimum conditions are again met.

Temporary Use of Cleaner Air Symbol

The Cleaner Air Symbol may be used to identify a room, path of travel, and restrooms that meet the conditions of use on a temporary basis.

Further explanation of the Criteria for Conditions of Use

No Smoking

Smoking is prohibited in the path of travel, Cleaner Air Room, and restrooms serving the room. To qualify as a Cleaner Air Room, the room, path of travel, restrooms and surrounding area must be free of tobacco residue. Those who smoke, or who have tobacco residue on their person, would be prohibited from using the room. Smoking should be restricted to outdoor, designated smoking areas that are at a minimum 100 feet from paths of travel, entryways, operable windows, and air intakes. (See No Smoking Policy, Operations and Maintenance Report)

Fragrance-Free

Prohibit fragrance-emitting devices (FEDS), air fresheners, deodorizers, and similar products. Recommend that no fragranced, citrus-and/or pine-based products be used in cleaning or maintaining the room, path of travel, and restrooms. Any persons with perfume, cologne, aftershave, as well as fragranced personal care and laundry products, would be prohibited from using the room. (See Fragrance-Free Policy, Operations and Maintenance Report)

Pesticide-Free Indoors and Outdoors

Practice Integrated Pest Management. Use least hazardous pest management materials such as non-volatile baits, sticky traps, and boric acid with knowledge and input from those using the path of travel and Cleaner Air Room. The sign should be removed in the event of a least hazardous pesticide application for 24-48 hours because it is likely that the certified pest control applicator is in regular contact with chemical pesticides and could leave residue from clothing or equipment. In addition, some chemically sensitive individuals may be made sick by exposure to even least hazardous pesticides especially when they are first applied.

In the event of a chemical pesticide application made to the building or grounds, other than a least hazardous pesticide such as those listed above, remove the sign and consult with those who use the space and others regarding the length of time that the room would need to be closed to protect affected populations based on the product(s) used. (See Operations and Maintenance for least hazardous pest management materials and cautions in the event that a chemical pesticide application is considered for use in the Cleaner Air Room, Path of Travel, Restrooms, or the building or grounds.)

Least Toxic/Risk Cleaning Products

Avoid or limit the use of products containing chlorine, ammonia, quaternary ammonium, phenol, isopropyl and other alcohols, formaldehyde, and other petroleum distillates. Do not use fragranced, citrus-and/or pine-based cleaning products as mentioned above. Consult those who plan to use the Cleaner Air Room and Path of Travel for cleaning product recommendations. Follow the recommendations of Operations and Maintenance Report for best practices.

No Recent Construction or Remodeling Including Carpet Installation

Every effort should be made to avoid remodeling activities in the Cleaner Air Room, path of travel, and restrooms. Any remodeling activity would require removal of the signage. The length of time for removal should be determined by the type of activity, extent of the remodeling, and the products and materials selected for use. It is important to choose the least toxic, least problematic products and practices. Except for minimal touch up painting, for example, it would not be unusual to have the signage removal in effect for a period of 3- 6 months to a year or more depending on the nature and extent of the remodeling activity. Be sure to consult building occupants with existing health problems and those who are using the Cleaner Air Room for their input and to help determine when the Cleaner Air Room may again be safe for use. (See Products and Materials Report and Design and Construction Report for more information)

Cell Phones Turned Off

Protect those with electromagnetic sensitivities and others who may be adversely affected by electrical equipment.

Ability to turn off or unplug computers and other electrical equipment by occupant or staff

Protect those with electromagnetic sensitivities and others who may be adversely affected by computers and electrical equipment.

Ability to turn off flourescent lighting by occupant or staff, or the availability of operable window(s)

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recommendations for new construction call for individual control of lighting.(3) Newer fluorescents that contain electronic rather than magnetic ballasts may be less problematic for some people with electromagnetic sensitivities because they do not produce a visible flicker or audible hum. They are also less prone to trigger seizures.