Let’s clear the air: Introducing Breathe Easy Illinois

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Throughout Illinois, the seats are empty. Restaurants, movie theaters, museums, gyms and more have all felt the lingering effects of a pandemic almost one year in the making.

Nearly all industries have experienced an unprecedented culture shift to virtual and remote work, and the majority of households with K-12 students have become increasingly familiar with distance learning.

As the country works to return to “normal,” many commercial building managers and homeowners have turned their focus on creating healthier buildings by improving indoor air quality (IAQ).

Introducing Breathe Easy Illinois

SMACNA Greater Chicago, Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 73 and SMART Local 265 say they have launched Breathe Easy Illinois. “This labor-management cooperative features today’s most advanced solutions designed to help improve IAQ for all Illinoisans now and beyond the pandemic,” they say in a statement.

“Improving occupant health and wellness is no longer a value-added option — it’s a necessity,” said Tony Adolfs, SMACNA Greater Chicago executive vice-president. “Our members have the best-trained workforce to install and maintain today’s most reliable IAQ solutions, and we’re proud to take the lead in our industry with the launch of this program. Together, we can clear the air and get our communities back up and running safely.”

The organization says that currently “there are more than 50 preferred contractors in the Breathe Easy Illinois network.”

“These trained HVAC professionals are among the most knowledgeable in the industry on issues relating to humidity control, filtration, ventilation and more,” the statement says. “Each contractor offers practical solutions designed to create a safer and healthier environment for building occupants across both commercial and residential markets.”

The organizations say of these solutions include:

  • Bipolar ionization
  • Ultraviolet disinfection (UV-C)
  • MERV 13+ filtration

“I knew our industry could help combat COVID and felt an obligation to educate businesses, schools and homeowners that their investment in clean air now will improve the general health of people today and well into the future,” said Ray Suggs, president and Business Manager of Local 73. “With better indoor air quality, workers will get sick less often, students will miss fewer days of school and homeowners will feel more comfortable breathing in clean air. This long-term investment will enable businesses, schools and homeowners to return to normal.”

The importance of clean indoor air

Indoor air quality can be affected by a number of things like toxic cleaning products, poor ventilation, high temperature and humidity. Without the proper equipment installed, it’s easy for mold, bacteria, viruses, pet dander and more to spread. Continued exposure to these contaminants can cause a variety of health concerns, ranging from asthma and respiratory infections to more serious conditions. The Environmental Protection Agency reports the annual cost to businesses as a result of indoor air pollution is $60 billion.

Despite concerns over poor indoor air quality, 90 percent of employees miss the workplace, according to the Envoy Return to Work Survey. Additionally, a recent McKinsey & Company study shows that a return to in-person instruction is critical for student achievement, as continued remote learning may cause an average loss of 5-9 months in mathematics learning by June 2021.

As clean air experts, Breathe Easy Illinois contractors are well-equipped to create healthier indoor environments for businesses, schools and homes, the statement says.

“By improving indoor air quality, we improve our overall health,” Suggs said. “I know firsthand that union sheet metal workers are highly-skilled, qualified technicians who will get the job done right — and safely.”

For more information or to find a Breathe Easy Illinois contractor near you, visit BreatheEasyIllinois.com.

Note: These measures are not a substitute for social distancing protocols, mask wearing and frequent handwashing, as recommended by the CDC.

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