Indoor Air Quality — Healthy Buildings

Indoor air quality (IAQ) affects us all. We want the air we breathe to be clean, allergens (respiratory and topical skin irritants) to be lessened, and exposure to hazardous chemicals and other materials to be non-existent in the structures where we work and live. Poor IAQ potential sources cover a wide range of possibilities and even some that are not easily identified.


The practice of IAQ evaluation involves most often the process of eliminating potential sources. Some IAQ studies are done during and following new construction where off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) or formaldehyde from building materials are possible or building materials, exposed during open construction, leave them vulnerable to the elements and mold develops from moisture intrusion.


Poor IAQ may also be the result of dry floor drains, uncapped pipes in wall spaces, insect, rodent or avian infestation, exhaust vents not extended beyond roof lines or positioned adjacent to clean-air intakes, or poor storage and use of chemicals with improper ventilation.


Surrounding areas may also contribute to poor indoor air quality: idling trucks at loading docks or buses at adjacent bus stops, manufacturing facilities emissions, roof and/or road repair, cattle and agricultural uses, or barren vacant land.


Other uncomfortable conditions may exist but not necessarily contribute to poor IAQ. This may include the use of air fresheners, perfumes and colognes, candles, bleach or other cleaners, or other odor masking substances. Depending on the source, nuisance odors can be as concerning as poor IAQ producing sources due to individual sensitivities.


When it comes to healthy indoor air quality- typically back to the basics is best, having a plan of action, and incorporating preventable measures will alleviate IAQ issues.


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