By Rachel Reboulet
From the October 2022 Issue
The indoor air quality of your home or office has a direct impact on the health of your building occupants and staff. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. Although people can often sense pollution outdoors, indoor air contaminants, such as molds, allergens, and viruses, can be just as dangerous. Most people would not knowingly consume contaminated food or water, yet they rarely think about the indoor air they are actively breathing all day, every day! Testing for indoor air quality (IAQ) to understand the bio-contaminants in an indoor environment allows you to more accurately understand how to improve it.
There are multiple factors that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Regardless of where you live, indoor humidity can occur because of water leaks, moisture seeping in through crawlspaces, or moisture trapped in the air entering your home from the outdoors.
Additionally, poor ventilation contributes to poor indoor air quality. Inadequate indoor ventilation recirculates polluted air that can contribute to the buildup of bio-contaminants. Pets also contribute to poor indoor air quality from the contaminants on their skin, saliva, and urine. In addition to pet allergens, animals can bring molds, bacteria, environmental allergens, and other bio-contaminants inside from outdoors. Even if you are not a pet owner, pet allergens are tenacious and can be left behind by former pets who inhabited or visited the building.
Air quality is something everyone should care about, as even the smallest issue can create large-scale health challenges. Common indoor air pollutants include allergens, fungi, viruses, and bacteria. Poor indoor air quality can result in symptoms associated with asthma and allergies including itchy and watery eyes, sore throat, stuffy nose, and respiratory issues. In some circumstances, poor indoor air quality can contribute to life threatening diseases, such as aspergillosis, which can infect the lungs and multiple organs. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants and immunocompromised, may be more sensitive to the effects of poor indoor air quality. If you begin experiencing these symptoms, having your air tested can provide an accurate assessment of what you are exposed to in your indoor environment and can help your physician or indoor air quality professional provide proper recommendations for treatment and remediation, respectively.
Most people are unaware they are experiencing issues with indoor air quality because air particles are not visible to the human eye. To give you a better understanding of the size of these particles, a single strand of hair is 50-180 microns, a grain of pollen is 15 microns, a dust particle is 10 microns and SARS CoV-2 is 0.1-0.5 microns. Indoor air quality issues can oftentimes go undetected until they become major issues, which is why accurate, full-panel testing is required. An accurate indoor air quality analysis will detect the ultra-fine bio-particles floating in the air while traditional testing methods measure only large particles, such as mold spores.
When conducting an indoor air quality assessment, understanding the different testing systems is critical. To ensure you are getting the most accurate results for your environment, it’s recommended to rely on the latest indoor air quality testing systems. Typically, spore traps are used to detect mold spores in the air, but this testing system has the opportunity for human error, as well as inaccurate results that ultimately fail to provide a full panel of what is in your environment.
Reboulet, Director of Laboratory Operations for AirAnswers, Inc., has 19+ years of laboratory and management experience from top institutions including Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Chicago, where she served as the lab manager in a Howard Hughes Medical Institute laboratory. Reboulet has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Ohio State University and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Cincinnati. She is a Council-certified Environmental Allergen Consultant (CEAC) through the American Council of Accredited Certification (ACAC) and is also working toward her CIE.
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