Mold and IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) problems can occur in industrial, commercial and residential buildings this may often be referred to as Sick Building Syndrome. Common complaints include allergic reactions, health issues, odors and general discomfort. The purpose of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) sampling is to identify contaminates and sources and develop a plan to remedy identified problems. Among the services ETC provides are:
- Mold Investigations / Inspections
- Mold Clearance Sampling
- Indoor Air Quality Investigations / Sick Building Syndrome
- Testing for Specific Parameters (Concerns)
Mold Investigations / Inspections
Mold investigations involve gathering available information on the history of water intrusion into the building. Mold issues do not exist without the current or historical presence of moisture. In order to identify potential moisture areas, ETC uses a variety of instrumentation to teat for surface moisture, moisture below surfaces, on the interior of walls and tests for current relative humidity. Once having determined potential areas of water intrusion ETC may take air samples, surface samples and / or wall interior samples.
ETC submits all samples to an EMLAB certified laboratory for analysis. If mold growth is detected on the samples, ETC will develop a comprehensive remediation plan to assist in eliminating the problem. This plan (which follows the ASHRAE guidelines) can be provided to contractors who can provide remediation pricing and address the concerns identified.
Mold Clearance Sampling
After a mold problem has been addressed, it is industry practice to perform final (clearance) sampling to insure that all work was done correctly and that the air and surfaces within the work areas has been adequately cleaned. The mold clearance procedure involves three steps including:
- A verification that all work within the scope has been addressed
- A visual inspection of the work space to insure it has been properly cleaned
- Final, sampling that may include both air and surface sampling
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Investigations and Inspections
In some cases, ETC is asked to perform sampling in a building or area where occupants have raised concerns about odors, allergic reactions or general discomfort. In more extreme situations, occupants may believe that the air quality within the building is causing health issues (this is often referred to as “Sick Building Syndrome”.
Unfortunately, investigations like this can be very complicated and often also very expensive. If no additional information is given there can be hundreds or thousands of potential causes for IAQ problems. Just a few of the most common include: inadequate air flow through occupied areas, mold / mildew growth, a need for HVAC balancing, chemical sensitivities, etc. For this reason, ETC approaches these requests following a series of steps to try and limit costs. The steps followed often include:
- Interviewing or sending a survey to occupants to further identify exact symptoms that are occurring.
- Reviewing / testing the existing HVAC system serving the areas in question to insure adequate air flow for the occupancy of the area(s). Focusing on general comfort guidelines like temperature, relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels.
- Having an HVAC professional rebalance the HVAC system
- Conducting mold / mildew / bacteria investigations.
- Sampling for specific or a broad spectrum of chemicals in the air.
- A variety of other tests that would address the symptoms given in the 1st step.
As you might expect, this can be a very labor intensive and costly procedure so ETC follows this staged approach to try and keep costs down to the extent possible.
Testing for Specific Parameters (Concerns)
In some circumstances, building owners or occupants will want want to test for specific items. Some of the more commonly requested tests include:
Air Flow – Building owners often redesign / rebuild sections of building without redesigning the HVAC systems supplying those areas. This can cause stagnant air and a variety of issues for occupants.
General Comfort Parameters – Fluctuations in temperature, relative humidity and carbon dioxide levels can cause similar symptoms to mold exposure. Carbon Dioxide monitoring is useful in determining the overall air quality in a building. Elevated Carbon Dioxide levels indicate poor air exchange that can lead to many IAQ complaints.
Fungal / Mold – Probably the second most common reason for IAQ problems, water intrusion into a building can often cause mold growth and occupant concerns.
Carbon Monoxide – Carbon Monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that results from combustion. Common sources are trucks idling in docks or near air intakes and indoor garages.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – VOC’s are carbon based (organic) compounds that are common in a wide variety of products including: petroleum products, cleaning chemicals and adhesives. VOC’s are a common source of odor complaints.
Formaldehyde – Formaldehyde has recently been linked to a number of respiratory complaints. Formaldehyde is commonly found in new carpeting, upholstery and processed wood products.
Many, Many, Many Others – The number of possible reasons for IAQ discomfort are in the thousands. It is important to know what you are looking for before starting an expensive sampling program.