Air Quality Testing
Why is air quality testing important?
Why the big concern now about indoor air quality (IAQ), is the air quality worse now that it was in the past?
IAQ did not use to be a big problem. This is because, before the 1970s, there were almost no energy conservation rules and regulations for buildings and homes. Much of this changed in an effort to conserve heat loss in buildings, and ultimately conserve more energy and cut costs.
Structures began to be built more tightly, with sealed windows. This resulted in less natural air circulation. The concept of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) entered into our culture during that time.
Symptoms of Bad Air Quality
Symptoms of poor IAQ are as seemingly simple as an odd smell in the air, to more extreme examples where bad air may make people sick.
It can be very difficult to pinpoint the cause of the air quality degradation due to the wide variety of causes and the different immunity and sensitivity levels of people. Some of the common reasons for air problems are carbon monoxide, mould and chemical treatment of fabrics.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) did a study and found that in 500 cases, the top reasons for IAQ problems were: Inadequate ventilation, indoor contamination and outdoor contamination, microbial contamination, and contamination from building fabric.
One of the first tests to check is Radon. Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas. Tests for radon are very inexpensive compared to other indoor air quality tests.
Carbon Monoxide monitors. Each home should have a carbon monoxide monitor, they are also inexpensive and will not only test air they can save lives, as carbon monoxide can be deadly.
Dosimeters. These can test for volatile organic compounds, specific chemicals and/or materials.
You can purchase monitors or detectors to measure; formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, water vapour and other pollutants can be purchased. The devices can be set up inside in the home for a specified period of time and then sent back to a lab for proper analysis.
How to Improve Indoor Air Quality
Ventilation. Increase the ventilation, or improve the current ventilation system. Make sure the system and any filters are properly maintained. There should be enough supply of natural fresh air into the building or residence.
Air Treatment. Treat the air with air filtration devices designed to clean the air. Control the air temperature and humidity levels appropriately.
Other tips for improving air quality can be as simple as plants. These plants can help to clean your indoor air: peace lily, bamboo palm, English ivy and gerbera daisies.
The majority of homes in the UK are situated in or near known areas of radon gas occurrence – especially common in The Western peninsula, Wales and upland areas of the UK.
Prolonged contact with radon gas is a serious health hazard and as the gas is odourless it is advisable to consult the Radon distribution map and to check for its presence if the property is located in such an area.
Building regulations require any alterations to comply with radon requirements such as gas proof waterproofing systems and floor membranes. Positive pressure units can also assist in the evacuation of the gas.