Environmental and Sustainability Consultants

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

indoor air quality

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Individuals can spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels and indoor air pollution by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the building.   Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within  buildings, especially as it relates to the well being and comfort of building occupants. Understanding and controlling common pollutants can help prevent IAQ related health concerns.  Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced immediately after exposure or, potentially, years later.

Health Effects

Building occupants may experience health symptoms following a single exposure or after repeated exposures to a pollutant.   Health symptoms include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.  Such immediate effects are usually short-term and treatable.  If the source can be identified, either it needs to be controlled or the person needs to be removed from the exposure.   Each person will react differently after being exposed to an indoor air pollutant. The probability of immediate reactions following an exposure depends on several factors including age and preexisting medical conditions.  In some cases, whether a person reacts to a pollutant depends on individual sensitivity, which varies tremendously from person to person. Some occupants can become sensitized to biological or chemical pollutants after  a high level exposure or repeated exposures. It may be difficult to determine if the symptoms are a result of exposure to indoor air pollution since certain immediate effects are similar to those from colds or other viral diseases.   It is important to pay attention to the time and place symptoms occur. If the symptoms fade or go away when a person is away from the area, for example, an effort should be made to identify indoor air sources that may be possible causes. Some effects may be made worse by an inadequate supply of outdoor air coming indoors or from the heating, cooling or humidity conditions prevalent indoors.

The World Health Organization has previously reported that up to 30 percent of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be the subject of excessive complaints related to indoor air quality.  High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

Pollutant sources can include:

  • Asbestos
  • Biological Pollutants
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO)
  • Formaldehyde/Pressed Wood Products
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
  • Pesticides
  • Radon (Rn)
  • Respirable Particles
  • Secondhand Smoke/ Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • Vehicle Exhaust
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

The term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be associated to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified. The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

IAQ Programs

ECOthink group can establish proactive IAQ programs and procedures to prevent IAQ issues from emerging.  ECOthink can also investigate indoor air quality complaints and offer solutions. Some of the services offered by Ecothink group in this area include:

  • Proactive Indoor Air Quality Programs including Inspections and Monitoring
  • Odor Investigations
  • Sick Building Syndrome
  • Flood/ Sewage Response
  • Mold and Moisture Assessment
  • Allergen Assessments
  • Environmental Tobacco Smoke Investigations
  • LEED™ Green building IAQ consulting services
  • Lead in Paint Surveys
  • Asbestos Surveys
  • Electromagnetic (EMF) radiation

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