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New Data on How Ozone Affects IAQ

ozone, sick building syndrome, air filter

IAQ

In the upper atmosphere, ozone is a good thing, helping to filter out UV rays. At ground level it’s bad news, contributing to smog creation and acting as a respiratory system irritant.

A new study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory has discovered that as ozone levels rise outside so does the incidence of sick building syndrome. The indoor concentrations of sensory irritants such as formaldehyde, and organic acids, including pentanal, hexanal and nonanal, increased with rising outdoor ozone as well. Results came from a Berkley analysis of data from an EPA study called Building Assessment Survey and Evaluation, in which 100 U.S. office buildings were studied for one week between 1994 and 1998.

In addition to the ozone-sick building syndrome link, the study found that certain types of air filters might interact with ozone to play a role in sick building syndrome. Use of a polyester or other synthetic filter in areas with high outdoor ozone levels correlated with an increased incidence of sick building syndrome symptoms. There were fewer symptoms in buildings using fiberglass filters, or where polyester/synthetic filters were used in areas with low ozone concentrations.

This is the first epidemiological evidence from a field study linking ambient ozone levels and sick building syndrome. It is also the first field evidence linking sick building syndrome to a specific filtration technology used in large buildings. Michael Apte, who led the study and is part of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division, says the results of both studies require further verification.

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