“I want an Indoor Air Quality Test!”
This is a request that we hear often from homeowners, renters, building owners, etc.
All of whom are concerned about the quality of their indoor air.
Many of these people are under the impression that one “test” or “sample” can tell us everything we need to know about the air quality within a structure. This is almost never the case. There are so many potential contaminants that can have an effect on indoor environments we should consider narrowing the scope of what we are looking for when testing and sampling. If we don’t, environmental monitoring can become expensive. No one wants to spend money for air monitoring, sample collection and laboratory expenses that will not tell us what we need to know (I certainly don’t).
In order to formulate a testing and sampling strategy, a hypothesis should be developed. The hypothesis is created after the following is performed:
1) Occupant interview – The information obtained from occupant(s) can include:
- Physiological symptoms thought to be brought about by occupying the structure
- Recent renovations
- History of water leaks or intrusion or fungal contamination
- Maintenance history
2) Site Survey
- Visual survey of occupied spaces, crawl spaces, attic, mechanical rooms, etc.
- Moisture Mapping (Using thermal imaging and moisture detectors)
- Visual survey the interior if the air conveyance system (ACS). This includes air handling units, ductwork, etc.)
The aforementioned bullet points are not inclusive of all areas covered in occupant interviews and site surveys but give you a good idea of areas covered.
After obtaining the necessary information through the occupant interview(s) and site survey, Indoor Environmental Professionals (IEP) are then able to put together a sampling protocol best suited for a particular environment. Air sampling and monitoring is not always recommended by SANAIR IAQ and other reputable Indoor Environmental Companies.
Having said that; a sampling and monitoring protocol should be produced prior to air sampling and monitoring. I have listed the most common contaminants and parameters for which we sample and monitor:
- Air temperature and Relative Humidity (RH) – Temperature and RH are used to determine if conditions are favorable to support biological growth and if the ACS is functioning properly
- Biological sampling – Molds, bacteria, pollen, etc.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – An indicator of adequate ventilation (Fresh air)
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) – A by-product of combustion (gas appliances, etc.)
- Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) – Is often associated with sewer gas
- Formaldehyde (HCHO) – Used in adhesives, particle board furniture, etc.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) – Gases associated with cleaning chemicals, new furniture, etc.
So, before a company sells you on collecting a boat load of air and surface samples for molds, and without performing a proper pre-testing and monitoring evaluation, contact a reputable Indoor Environmental Professional. You never know, it may be formaldehyde off-gassing from laminate flooring that’s affecting your Indoor Air Quality.