3 FM quick reads on contaminants
1. Indoor Air Quality Measurement Strategies
When it comes to measuring for good indoor air quality and the strategies to employ in pursuing remediation, it really pays to first stop and consider what you really want to achieve.
Consider this from Andrew Persily, leader of the Indoor Air Quality Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "You can spend a lot of money measuring different things, but what are you going to do with the information?" he says. "There are potentially hundreds of different contaminants that could be measured but there aren't established criteria for what's acceptable in non-industrial settings. So unless there's a really good reason for measuring the contaminant and you know what you're going to do with the data, many would recommend against it."
So if it's something obvious, such as you smell mold or you see it, you're probably better off spending your money cleaning it up and addressing the problem that's causing it so you don't get mold again. If all you do is test it without addressing the cause, all you're doing is spending money.
If it's something more subtle than obvious mold, or it's not something clear-cut like cold air blowing on people, it is improper to call a specialist who has only one sphere of expertise. Don't hire a specialist before consulting a generalist.
If workers have symptoms, contact the expert who understands symptoms, how to connect them to the indoor environment, and whom to contact for specific remediation needs.
And even when you have the expert involved, don't permit tests to be performed unless the consultant can explain the results.
Have the expert explain what information the testing will provide and how that information will be used. Again, it's become relatively easy to test for substances. It's not so easy to connect the findings of those tests to human health effects.
2. Establish an IAQ Yardstick
Establish an IAQ yardstick for your building.
Not only do you need appropriate administrative protocols for your IAQ program, you also need a measurable baseline, or IAQ yardstick. This yardstick provides an indication of air quality conditions.
Measurable targets, such as temperature, humidity, microbial, chemical and particulate levels, should be established, and thereafter, the air should be periodically monitored in relation to these targets. Your yardstick can be used as an early warning detection system, a diagnostic tool and an important point of distinction for your building.
The data obtained can be used to compare your building with other buildings or with relevant standards, compare certain areas of your building to each other, compare current conditions with historical conditions, detect the presence of particularly harmful contaminants, detect high levels of contaminants, monitor conditions within the HVAC system, or monitor conditions in areas noted for containing particular contaminants.
3. Common Sources of IAQ Issues
This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is identifying the most common indoor air quality culprits.
Maintenance and engineering managers constantly seek out ways to improve IAQ. The evaluation process often results in managers revamping preventive maintenance tasks so technicians have a detailed game plan for monitoring and diagnosing building systems and components for IAQ deficiencies.
Managers and technicians typically can inspect a few specific areas in facilities to identify causes of poor IAQ. Common sources of IAQ issues are these:
First, air-supply intakes. They can cause IAQ problems for many reasons. They can receive an inadequate air volume, they are favorite roosting places for birds, and they might introduce contaminated outdoor air.
Next are sub-roof or below-grade areas. These areas are subject to moisture in still air, which results in mold growth. Crawl spaces where water can puddle unnoticed are a breeding ground for mold, pests and allergens that can cause respiratory illness.
Third, chemical storage areas. Cleaning chemicals, paints and other materials can evaporate and release toxic vapors and volatile organic compounds.
And finally, HVAC ducts.Ductwork that provides heated or cooled air to the facility also can be a culprit. Water induced into them from humidifiers in the winter and condensate in the summer can grow mold. Any time there is high temperature with no air circulation, mold can grow rapidly. Plus, mold can stick on substances that adhere to duct walls, loosen, and then enter the air supply.