Under the new LEED v4 revisions, the U.S. Green Building Council requires that vacuum cleaners are certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute “Green Label” Testing Program for vacuum cleaners, capture 96 percent of particulates 0.3 microns in size, and operate with a sound level at less than 70 decibels.

Vacuum volumes higher than 70 decibels causes environmental “noise pollution,” and may result in adverse health effects to building occupants and users of floor equipment.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association, repeated exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss and other problems, such as “stuffy” ears and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Loud occupational noises can also create other physical and psychological stress, reduce worker productivity, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals.

While OSHA’s legal limit to noise exposure in the workplace is 90 decibels over an eight-hour period, the agency warns that hearing problems can begin under lower-decibel exposures, especially to hearing sensitive workers.

A color-coded “noise-meter” on OSHA’s website shows vacuum cleaners in the “orange” or modest risk range — just below dangerous levels of occupational noise exposures.

But with some independent consumer studies recording vacuum noise levels at 90 decibels and higher, vacuums may quickly enter OSHA’s red zone — and put occupants and workers at risk for hearing loss.

Low-decibel commercial vacuums, which are typically between 60 and 70 decibels, may help facilities and building service contractors strike the perfect balance between cleaning efficiency, and janitor and building occupant health.

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