Any building — ancient, modern, or futuristic — is subject to contaminants that can cause poor air quality. Whether it’s mold growth, pollen, dust, chemical pollutants, or pet hair, there's no shortage of airborne particles threatening human health.
Because of the overwhelming number of air pollutants, building owners and managers must check indoor air quality (IAQ) constantly. The effects of poor IAQ go beyond unpleasant odors and high humidity levels. When indoor air pollution goes unchecked, the damage to a building's inhabitants and infrastructure can be disastrous.
Although it's generally understood that monitoring levels of carbon dioxide and other air-quality factors is essential, many people need help understanding the frequency with which tests should be run. While routine air-quality checks should be a mandatory habit, certain signs and events indicate a pressing need to test a building's IAQ.
When to Perform an Indoor Air-Quality Reading
Air-quality readings are public health matters, and they’re part of the managerial responsibility to guarantee safe, breathable air for building occupants. Successfully maintaining your IAQ requires more than repairing HVAC leaks and installing carbon monoxide detectors; it's a continuous practice that requires a systemic approach.
Air-quality checks must be comprehensive, detecting everything from radon levels to mold spores. Ideally, building managers should install air-quality sensors to identify any potential particulate matter that might be dangerous.
Given the importance of air-quality measurements, those responsible for building maintenance must know how to check indoor air quality. This practice includes understanding the causes of poor air quality and knowing when to test the air.
1. At the Onset of Poor Health Symptoms That Arise Unexpectedly
If an entire office develops poor health symptoms, it may not be a viral infection; it could be lousy air quality that’s causing communal symptoms of sickness. Poor ventilation is often a direct cause of such symptoms. However, it's not just poor ventilation; certain chemical cleaners or construction dust may cause feelings of nausea.
An outdated HVAC system can exacerbate health problems because the unit is less likely to mediate the humidity or effectively filter out harmful organic compounds and chemicals.
Some of the symptoms of poor air quality include:
- Burning eyes, nose, or throat
- Clogged sinuses
If an entire office, or even just one employee, develops such symptoms, it may be the building's air quality. This phenomenon is known as "sick building syndrome," and it's estimated that up to 30% of buildings have poor IAQ.
2. After Smelling Odd Odors Recurrently With No Clear Source
Strange and unpleasant odors are always clear indicators that something's gone afoul. However, most people first look to the trash bins or their underarms to pinpoint the origin of a stink, when it might be the air.
Improper ventilation creates mold and mildew, which gives off a stale odor. Unfortunately, it's hard to locate mold outbreaks, but thankfully, with a sound air-check system, building owners can quickly determine whether the smell is arising from air-quality issues.
It's important to remember that other types of airborne threats are odorless. For example, certain gasses are odorless, so carbon monoxide and radon cannot be detected by smell.
3. If You've Experienced Poor or Inadequate Ventilation
If a building is poorly designed with inadequate ventilation, it increases the likelihood of unstable air quality. In such cases, the building falls prey to static air, which means the building can't cycle air properly. When air can't move, the likelihood of pollutants, dampness, and mold rises.
Airflow detection systems are often outdated and fail to do an effective job of sensing ventilation issues. Ideally, buildings should have a grid of airflow sensors to detect air movement.
If your building has sustained ventilation damage or has a history of poor air movement, it's critical to run a series of air-quality tests to ensure a healthy environment.
4. During Changes in Seasons, Weather, and Humidity Levels
Especially for areas that are prone to dramatic shifts in the weather, it's wise to conduct air-quality tests with the changing seasons.
Likewise, severe weather will change the conditions of a building's air, sometimes making it unfit to breathe. Large storms, dry spells, and forest fires affect the building’s IAQ, making it essential to test the air as often as possible whenever the weather takes a wild turn.
Lastly, areas with high humidity levels are more likely to develop mold and organic pollution. Because of this, monitoring humidity levels is essential to the health of a building's inhabitants, infrastructure, and electrical equipment.
5. After Home Repairs or When Moving Into a New House
Anytime a home or office undergoes construction or repairs, it's important to conduct air-quality tests. This is because pollutants, dust, and chemicals from building materials are often present in the air, making it unfit to breathe.
Construction dust is particularly harmful, as it's not the typical biological material that forms regular dust. Instead, it consists of coarser particles that are often more hazardous.
Likewise, upon moving into a new building, one of your first courses of action should be an air test, especially if it's a previously uninhabited space. If left untreated for even for a short period, a room can develop air-quality issues.
The Argument for Continuous Air Quality Monitoring
Many think monitoring indoor air quality is a process to carry out once or twice annually. However, the more you understand the risks of unchecked air pollutants and how they affect health, the more the need for continuous air-quality monitoring becomes apparent.
It's evident that constant air testing is a health imperative, but it can be pricey, time-consuming, and inconvenient to have a third party do it for you. However, incorporating a high-end indoor air-quality monitor is a great option that saves time and money in the long run.
The Bottom Line: Don't Neglect Indoor Air-Quality Testing
Prioritizing your IAQ is essential, and there's no excuse for maintaining a building with unhealthy air. However, for those who still need to be convinced, studies point to the result that improving air quality increases health and productivity. For these reasons, it's time to improve the way you test and manage your building’s IAQ.
Attune is a market leader in developing indoor air-quality monitoring solutions. Atttune's products offer a holistic approach to IAQ testing to ensure that the building's air is in the best possible condition.