Do You Know What Chemicals are being brought into your Data Halls.

There has been a lot written about airborne contamination in Data center’s/Data Halls. Both Particulate and gaseous contaminants. Air Quality in Data Centers: Humans vs. the Machines published on LinkedIn and What’s Creeping Around in Your Data Center? Both, by Christopher Muller, are great examples of this. However, most of these discuss gaseous contamination which is generated outside of the data hall and gets in. What about contaminants that are brought in and produced in your data halls. During my 21 years of technical cleaning, I have come across many examples of this. A prime example is the use of liquid floor seals (often call polish) on Data Hall floors. Whilst these seals make the floor look very shiny, few people seem to understand the chemical composition of these seals. A quick look at the safety data sheet of a very popular floor seal shows the ingredients include ammonia. The problem with ammonia is that it causes copper corrosion. So as the seal cures (hardens) it off gases’ ammonia into the data hall airflow, allowing it to find its way onto the PCBs within the servers. Other issues I have come across included the use of a cleaning agent which contained Chlorine. This was being sprayed onto cloths in front of the air inlet side of the servers, in this case, in the cold aisles. Whilst at this stage the liquid spray droplets are particulate contamination they are then pulled into the servers and evaporated so the Chlorine is now free as a gas. Chlorine also corroded copper.  It is also bad practice to spray liquids onto cloths in the air flow. All the above should form part of the cleaning companies Risk Assessment.

My advice to Data Centre managers would be. Always use a reputable Technical Cleaning Company. Always check their Risk assessments include the chemicals (ask for the data sheet) and products being used in your data hall. Question anything you are not happy with or unsure about. I would even ask them if they have checked the Chemicals being used are safe to use in a Data Hall environment.

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