Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

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If you are a building owner or employer, monitoring and maintaining Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) should always be on your agenda. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is a major issue, as today's heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems continually recycle indoor air. What this means is internally generated air pollution – from the off-gassing and emissions of office furniture, supplies and equipment, cleaning agents and/or pesticides – can build up and negatively impact your employees' health.


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Health effects of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can include dryness and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin; headaches; fatigue; shortness of breath; hypersensitivity and allergies; sinus congestion; coughing and sneezing; dizziness; and nausea. They are so common that terminology has been created to describe specific groups of symptoms: Sick Building Syndrome, Building Related Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

REGULATION: Currently no regulations in Ontario establish “safe” exposure limits for airborne contaminants in non-industrial environments. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) guidelines developed by ASHRAE and other cognitive authorities (such as Health Canada) are followed.

WHO: Employers, building owners, building managers.

OBLIGATIONS: In the absence of specific legislation, the “general duty clause” applies. This clause states that an employer must provide a safe and healthy workplace.

ASHRAE– American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. ASHRAE Standard 55-2010, Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy, specifies the combinations of indoor thermal factors (such as temperature, humidity and air speed) and personal factors (activity and clothing) that will satisfy the majority of occupants in the space.

ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality, specifies minimum ventilation rates and other measures intended to provide indoor air quality that is acceptable to occupants and that minimizes adverse health effects.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessments
- Development of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management programs
- Air sampling for specific contaminants
- Odour investigations
- Post-fire air quality testing
- Detailed HVAC assessments and airflow measurements
- Duct cleaning determination, testing and evaluation
- Education & training

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

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Safetech Environmental Limited (SEL) offers a wide variety of services associated with Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Our goal is to provide our clients with accurate, efficient and cost-effective services to assist them in maintaining a safe and healthy environment. We have qualified staff that possesses the educational background, knowledge and years of extensive hands-on experience in performing Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessments of varied complexity to provide the highest quality of service to our clients. We follow current Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standards and guidelines and use state-of-the-art sampling equipment to provide the highest level of services, which include the following:

Indoor Air Quality Assessments: These can vary in scope from basic assessments in one specific location to comprehensive building-wide assessments. Measurements for thermal comfort parameters (temperature & relative humidity), carbon dioxide (to assess the outdoor air ventilation rate), and a number of other common indoor pollutants are typically taken as part of a basic Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) assessment. In addition, a visual inspection of the HVAC systems serving the investigated areas is typically performed.

Development of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Programs: The benefits of providing good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) can be realized even more by implementing an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Management Program for your building. SEL can help develop a specific program that will meet your needs. Such programs can include the development of annual, semi-annual or quarterly Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing, re-assessment after modifications to HVAC systems, and testing for contaminant levels during and after major renovations. Education of building maintenance personnel and building tenants can also be incorporated into a comprehensive Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management program.

Air Sampling for Specific Contaminants: In some instances, more detailed air quality evaluations may have to be performed where sampling for specific contaminants is required. Examples of this include recently renovated areas, where air sampling for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and aldehydes (including formaldehyde) can provide useful information on the quality of air in these areas. Testing for occupant-specific sensitivities or allergies such as moulds, dust mite allergens, latex allergens, and individual chemical contaminants may also be required under certain circumstances.

Odour Investigations: Odours can arise from a number of sources such as gas leaks, hidden mould growth, rotting or decaying vegetation or dead animals, dry traps or cracked sewer lines, building-related activities or infiltration from outside contaminant sources. In many instances the occurrence of an unknown odour can cause significant disruption and concern in the work environment. SEL can help our clients determine the cause and source of the odour so that the problem can be properly rectified. A variety of assessment techniques are used by SEL to characterize and/or determine the source of the odour, depending on the specific situation.

Post-Fire Air Quality Testing: Fires have the potential to generate thousands of contaminants, the composition of which will vary depending on the type of materials consumed in the fire. Fire-related odours and contaminants may linger for a long time after the initial fire incident. SEL can perform testing services for a variety of potential contaminants (airborne and/or surface) generated during fire episodes to ensure that the area has been adequately restored and is acceptable for normal use while documenting conditions prior to re-occupancy.

Detailed HVAC Assessments and Airflow Measurements: The HVAC system of any building plays a significant role in air quality. If improperly sized, balanced, maintained or operated the HVAC system can be the cause of poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). SEL can assess several parameters of the HVAC system (including airflow rates, filtration efficiency, and air quality) in addition to a review of operation & maintenance practices to ensure that the units are operating properly and contributing to good air quality rather than bad.

Duct Cleaning Determination, Testing and Evaluation: Under certain conditions, debris may accumulate within the ductwork and can contribute to poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). However, duct cleaning itself can lead to greater air quality problems (through dislodging of settled dust, etc.) if performed improperly. SEL can provide services during all stages of duct cleaning (from initial assessment to final inspection and testing) to ensure that work is performed adequately and to document conditions.

Education & Training: SEL offers Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) training courses designed to address the needs of property managers and building operations & maintenance personnel. In addition, SEL can tailor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) awareness presentations for office employees and tenants. Please refer to our training section [link to training page] for further details.

Indoor Air Quality Standards & Guidelines
Currently there are no regulations in Ontario that establish “safe” exposure limits for airborne contaminants that are typically found in non-industrial, commercial, residential or institutional settings. Ontario Regulation 833 “Control of Exposure to Biological or Chemical Agents” (made under the Occupational Health & Safety Act) provides airborne exposure limits for a variety of chemicals. These exposure limits are applicable to manufacturing facilities, where it is assumed that people to whom the limits are intended to protect are “healthy workers”. Individuals that may have pre-existing medical conditions, severe allergies, chemical sensitivities and other such conditions would not be expected to work in such an environment. However, such individuals may very well be part of the working population in non-industrial environments such as offices. In addition, these limits are set to protect against the onset of specific illnesses or health effects and in many instances the levels are not intended to protect against irritation or to limit odours. Therefore, exposure limits provided in O.Reg 833 are not directly applicable for non-industrial environments.

In the absence of specific legislation for indoor environments, the “general duty clause” applies. This clause, common to all Canadian occupational health and safety legislation, states that an employer must provide a safe and healthy workplace. Thus, making sure the air is of good quality is the employer's duty, regardless of whether any specific regulated limits have been established.

Several organizations have published guidelines and standards developed specifically for determining the quality of air in commercial, institutional and residential facilities. A common thread throughout the majority of guidelines is reference to Standards published by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). ASHRAE Standard 55-2010, “Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Comfort” provides recommended ranges for thermal comfort parameters (temperature, relative humidity, air speed, etc.). The ranges provided are based on occupant activity and clothing factors and are set to satisfy the majority of occupants in the space with respect to comfort conditions. The purpose of ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010, “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality” is to specify minimum ventilation rates and indoor air quality that will be acceptable to human occupants and are intended to minimize the potential for adverse health effects. This standard considers chemical, physical, and biological contaminants that can affect air quality.

The above ASHRAE Standards serve as a baseline in determining acceptable air quality. General principles of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which provide helpful information for better understanding, assessing, communicating, managing, and solving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) issues are incorporated into numerous Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) documents published by a number of interest groups.
 

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