Indoor Air Quality Testing and Inspections
The air we breathe has a direct link
to our health with the US EPA ranking indoor air quality in the top five
environmental risks to people. The air quality in your home or workplace may be
the cause of a number of health effects including headache, fatigue, allergies,
sinus, nausea, dizziness and dryness of the eyes, skin, nose and throat and
even leading to more chronic diseases?
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
released the State of Knowledge Report in 2001 titled Air Toxics and Indoor Air Quality in Australia in which indoor air
pollutants are recognized as causing a wide range of health effects and the
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have set a number of
interim national indoor air quality goals as a result.
pollutants to come under NHMRC scrutiny include Carbon Monoxide (CO),
Formaldehyde, Ozone, Particles and Total Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCís) all
of which can be found in the buildings we live and work in every day.
There are very few studies to
indicate the combined effects of many chemicals to human health. Health effects
sometimes take years of constant low level exposure to appear and when they do
appear are often extremely hard to recover from and can be associated with multiple
chemical sensitivity (MCS) or chronic fatigue syndrome.
Indoor Air Quality in the Home
home environment is often under estimated in terms of the potential for causing
sickness. The position of the home to traffic routes, industrial activity and
the wind patterns for the area will often determine the level of pollutants
that can be introduced from the outside air, but the main air pollution sources
for homes comes from within the home itself.
Organic Compounds and specific VOCís such as formaldehyde are found in such a
wide array of building materials and products used indoors that they pose one
of the greatest sources of indoor air quality concern.
forms of VOCís include items we use everyday such as household cleaning
products, insect sprays used inside, cosmetics and any type of product that has
used glues or plastics will release VOCís adding to the total concentration.
other major indoor air pollutant is from the use of natural gas for cooking and
heating. This poses a significant concern when the byproducts of gas combustion
such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates arenít vented to the
outside by a flue and toxic concentrations build up in tightly sealed buildings.
Closeness to major roads is also a factor in exposing building occupants to
further byproducts from vehicle exhaust including particulate matter and carbon monoxide.
are around 2 to 300 microns long and live in a fine layer of dust that is
constantly settling on household items. The dust mite allergen is particularly
exposed to humans through faecal matter and thrive
in warm, humid environments.
other major factor for indoor air quality in homes is the growth of mould and
other bacteria. Mould spores are all around us but require excess moisture to
proliferate and can then grow on any organic material including painted
surfaces, in carpet and on furniture. The higher the level of mould spores in a
home the higher the probability of adverse health effects to the occupants.
Home Indoor Air Quality Audit
The envirodetox home consult
involves a cost effective analysis with a focus on identifying any of the
parameters suspected of causing health problems.
source identification through using a protimeter for the indoor and
outdoor surfaces of the home and trained observation.
- Measurement of the parameters of the home including
relative humidity and temperature.
of Carbon Monoxide Levels using a portable carbon monoxide meter model DY
All details are reported in detail and
subsequent recommendations provided. Further requirements such as mould remediation
or rectifications can be overseen by envirodetox to ensure all pollutants
identified are removed and final testing conducted for peace of mind.
- Detailed room by room analysis for evidence of dust and
dust mites, VOCís, mould and bacteria, chemicals and toxic gases.
- If any areas are identified as a major concern further
testing can be carried out with any of the methods listed in the work
place audit service.
Indoor Air Quality in the Workplace
Mechanically ventilated office
buildings often fail to meet ventilation guidelines and create stuffy indoor
air that can cause of headache, drowsiness and irritancy.
The well documented sick building
syndrome is a consequence of poor indoor air quality which is associated with
the following syndromes;
- Irritated, dry or watering eyes
- Irritated, runny or blocked nose.
- Dry or sore throat.
- Dryness, itching or irritation of the skin,
occasionally with rash.
- Headache, tiredness or lethargy.
Section 8.24 of OH&S Code of
Practice Part 8 Ė Indoor Air Quality states: ĎAn employer, whether the
controller of the air system or not, has a duty of care under section 16 of the
Act to do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that the indoor air
quality in the workplace is clean and without risk to the health and safety of
employees and others.í
Workplace Indoor Quality Audit
The following indoor air quality
testing services are offered by Envirodetox for any commercial or public
premises including offices, hotels, restaurants and retail outlets;
- Assessment of general indoor air quality parameters
including relative humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide and an understanding of ventilation flow rates due to
natural and mechanical ventilation (HVAC systems).
- Specific Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCís) can be tested for
comparison to TWA and STEL guidelines obtained from national exposure
standards. These results are obtained by
active sampling that
can then be analysed in the lab. This is intensive sampling that normally
requires a minimum of 8 hours per sample in the test area.
- Total VOC concentrations are measured instantaneously
by using a Photo Ionisation Detector (PID). This is a direct sampling technique that enables many
multiple readings to gauge if there is a potential problem pertaining to
- Combustion gas analysis can be provided to ensure levels associated with natural
gas combustion and vehicle exhaust are not surpassing dangerous concentrations.
- Ultrafine Particulates are measured directly by using
the P-TRAK Ultrafine Particle Counter. Ultrafine particulates have an
aerodynamic diameter of less than 0.1 microns (100nm) and can penetrate deeply into the lungs.
- Mould and bacteria is detected using bioaerosol sampling. The sample is then analysed in a
certified laboratory for mould spore and bacteria levels and specific
cultures present. Moisture sources for mould are also measured using a
protimeter in all relevant building substrates.
sources of dust mites, pollens, heavy metals and chemicals are also identified
can all affect the indoor comfort levels and contribute to adverse health
effects. An important aspect of indoor air quality is what air is being
introduced from the external environment. The two main areas of external
introduction of pollutants are through the external air conditioning intake
valve(s) and building openings such as windows and doors. This is especially
relevant if these external points for the building are located close to high
traffic roads, exhaust fans, train lines and any other pollution source.
In assessing the potential exposure
to building occupants it is important to compare the concentrations obtained
against officially recognised standards (where applicable) and building biology
standards. The majority of parameters for indoor air quality are not officially
standardised for interiors, but there are several guidelines that are used
including the American Society for Heating,
Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers ASHRAE 55-2004 and National
Occupational Health & safety Commission (NOHSC).