Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality makes up a significant amount of the work that we do under the area of safety and health. We get lots and lots and lots of complaints about indoor air quality, and it’s generally based around the changing of the seasons. When it goes from hot to cold and heating season to air-conditioning season, we tend to get a lot of complaints because systems don’t turn on as quickly as employees would like them to.

And nowadays, we get more and more and more complaints about mold because people see something in the building that they think might be related to mold, or they’ve seen a TV show or news story come out about mold. Mold is around us all the time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s present at levels that would cause health problems. You deal with age-related issues, you have people that are predisposed to being affected by mold through allergies and/or respiratory disorders, and you’ve got people who are heavy smokers can be affected by poor air quality.

We learned a very long time ago that to just come into a building when somebody has an indoor air quality complaint and test for what they think it is hardly ever gives us the right answer. So we’ve devised a rather unique method for how we evaluate these indoor air quality situations by actually interviewing the employees. First we sit down with a group of employees where we talk to everybody about what their concerns or fears are relative to the building. We then sit down and interview people on a one-on-one basis. It’s not rocket science, it’s more of an evaluation of their opinion of what’s going on and it helps direct us toward what we should be for testing for.

When we come into the building, we find that if we don’t do this we are pretty much chasing our tail, because if we just start testing, the employees can be critical of the fact that we didn’t test for the right thing or we didn’t test under the right conditions. So we ask all of those kinds of questions so that when we come back we are actually testing under the circumstances that everybody agrees produce the conditions in the building that they’re concern about.

What we interestingly find is that the majority of the indoor air quality problems that people see or think that exist tend to be more perceptive problems than they are real health problems. We find that people do have severe allergies, we find that people have severe chemical sensitivities, and those are the people that may be affected by less-than-perfect indoor air quality. But we find in the majority of the cases, there is just simply not enough fresh air being brought into the building and that’s the function of the mechanical systems for the building. So we end up actually solving the problem so that people come to work and actually do have the opinion that the air quality in the building is better.