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Commercial IAQ Information

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the effect, good or bad, of the contents of the air inside a structure, on its occupants. Good IAQ is the quality of air which has no unwanted gases or particles in it at concentrations which will adversely affect someone. Poor IAQ occurs when gases or particles are present at an excessive concentration so as to affect the satisfaction or health of occupants.

In minor instances, poor IAQ may only be annoying to one person. At the extreme, it could be fatal to all of the occupants of a structure. It is important to note that the concentration of the contaminant or contaminants is crucial. Potentially infectious, toxic, allergenic, or irritating substances are always present in the air. There is nearly always a threshold level below which no effect occurs.

How can you tell if you have an indoor air quality problem in your building?

The usual clue is that people feel ill while inside the building, and the symptoms go away shortly after leaving the building, or sometimes, when away for the building for a period of time (as on weekends away from work, or a vacation).

No building is perfectly sealed and so the air inside ultimately originates outside. Air pollution present in the outdoor environment will therefore enter into the building as well.

What is the relationship between indoor and outdoor air quality (pollution)?

Generally, pollutants present in the outdoor environment are present at a somewhat lower concentration than outside (probably 10 to 90% in most cases). There are several reasons for this. Some pollutants are absorbed by materials in the building. Others deteriorate or react chemically and so disappear.

Still others may be filtered out by the ventilation system. Also as it takes some time for the outdoor air to enter in quantities, there may be a delay from the time a contaminant appears outdoors, to when it becomes a problem indoors. Smog from outdoors reaches its peak indoors some time after the outdoor peak.

Outdoor contaminants may be present indoors at a sufficient concentration to affect the occupants. Examples are pollen and mold spores from outdoors causing hay fever and allergies indoors; and high smog levels affecting occupants inside a building. Incidentally, there is no such thing as a good smog day close to a major highway (expressway/freeway).

How common are IAQ problems?

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 30% of all commercial buildings have significant IAQ problems. Similar estimates have been made by others.

How serious are IAQ problems?

The vast majority of IAQ problems are relatively minor. This means that occupants may suffer health effects such as cold or flu-like symptoms. In the case of workplaces, some individuals may miss some work days, and productivity will be affected. Serious and/or permanent health effects are much rarer, however they do occur, as in the case of Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks.

State of current knowledge.

IAQ is a new field in many ways. Much of the current knowledge is less than 20 years old, and AAA Indoor Air Quality is constantly educating and training our staff with the latest information and technology to help home owners and business owners deal with the today’s indoor air quality concerns.

Types of pollutants.

These are the main types of contaminants that should be of major concern in maintaining the the air quality in your business or home. Some of these contaminants are in the form of gases. These would be generally classified as toxic chemicals. Air Pollutants: (Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide), Volatile Organic Compounds: (formaldehyde, solvents, perfumes and fragrances, etc.), and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (pesticides).

Other pollutants are in the form of particles. These include bioaerosols (mold spores, pollen, viruses, bacteria, insect parts, animal dander, etc.); soot; particles from buildings, furnishings and occupants such as fiberglass, gypsum powder, paper dust, lint from clothing, carpet fibers, etc.; dirt (sandy and earthy material), etc.