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Indoor Air Quality Assessment Checklist: Common Contaminants and How to Control Them

Effectively control air contaminants using a standard indoor air quality management checklist. Find out how you can mitigate the risk of CO, CO2, VOCs, pesticides, mold & mildew, allergens, etc. in the article below.

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What Is an Indoor Air Quality Assessment Checklist?


An indoor air quality assessment checklist is a document that’s used to evaluate the indoor air quality and ensure the living and working quarters are compliant with OSHA’s, the CDC’s, and the EPA’s set of standards.


Indoor air quality refers to how safe an environment is relative to the occupant’s health and well-being. It’s dependent on various factors such as environmental conditions, lighting, ventilation, dampness, and what type of work is being done.


Aside from health concerns, indoor air quality also affects the productivity and comfort of the building’s occupants. That is why educational institutions, building owners, and businesses take indoor air quality seriously so it won’t affect the performance and efficiency of the students, teachers, professors, workers, and other personnel under their jurisdiction.


There are many agencies concerned with indoor air quality such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The average worker is present in the workplace for an average of 40 hours per week, so maintaining a high standard for air quality is vital to reducing injury and disease that results from poor ventilation.


Complying with all three of the leading authorities on the subject can be a logistical nightmare. That’s where using a complete and comprehensive indoor air quality management checklist can help. With all the regulations recorded in one place and rewritten without confusing industry jargon, it’s almost impossible to forget or misunderstand a potentially lifesaving step in managing indoor air quality.



In this article, the following points are explained:


1. Common indoor air contaminants


2. Improving indoor air quality


3. How a digital checklist can improve indoor air quality


HVAC system venting a building to maintain high indoor air quality

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What Are the Common Indoor Air Contaminants?


According to various government agencies and institutions, seven common air contaminants need to be assessed and controlled. Below are some general details and control methods addressing each contaminates.


Carbon Monoxide


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas contaminant that is both odorless and colorless in nature. It is usually a byproduct of an incomplete combustion process, so carbon monoxide can be a danger to workplaces that have engines that utilize hydrocarbons.


When workers are exposed to carbon monoxide, they’ll immediately experience shortness of breath, nausea, and headaches. Prolonged exposure to this contaminant can lead to permanent brain damage and even death.


The indoor quality management checklist recommends using sufficient ventilation to mitigate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It ensures that fresh air is continuously supplied while unwanted gases are released outside the workplace. Another effective control method is to put CO detectors in areas with a higher risk of carbon monoxide leaks.


Carbon Dioxide


Carbon dioxide is one of the most common naturally occurring gases in the world. It is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. This gas is produced by humans and animals during respiration. And it is also a byproduct of the complete combustion of carbon fuel.


Poisoning from carbon dioxide can happen if its concentration goes past the acceptable range of 300-500ppm. When this happens, a person might experience negative effects, such as the loss of mental acuity, difficulty breathing because of too much gas in the blood, and death due to respiratory failure.


One of the main causes of increased CO2 concentration levels is the lack of ventilation. More specifically, this is caused if the ventilation system cannot keep up with the rate of carbon dioxide that’s being produced by the building’s occupants. To control this contaminant, it’s recommended to evaluate the indoor CO2 levels and adjust the ventilation system accordingly.


Damp Indoor Environments


Damp indoor environments refer to an indoor space having a higher relative humidity than that recommended by ASHRAE , which is 30% to 60%. Any relative humidity higher than this will promote microbial and mold growth and cause serious health effects.


It’s recommended to regularly check for possible sources of moisture, such as leaks from windows and condensation. Another source of moisture is water vapor as a byproduct of combustion. Checking the existing ventilation design and making necessary adjustments are also essential when correcting damp indoor environments.


Pesticides


Pesticides are chemical substances used to ward off or kill pests such as weeds, rats, insects, and any other organism that is considered harmful to any humans and their livelihood. This comes in many different forms such as insecticides and fungicides.


The severity of pesticide poisoning will depend on the type of pesticides used and the length of exposure. Side effects of exposure are nausea, headaches, and general physical weakness. Severe cases might result in seizures and even death.


To control pesticides from affecting the indoor air quality, it is recommended to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for storage and usage. Proper ventilation is also recommended to use as preventive and reactive measures.


Biological Particles


Contaminants that are biological in nature refer to components coming from animals, plants, and microbes. Examples of these are fur and dandruff, pollens, and spores.


These floating biological particles can trigger moderate to severe allergies in prone people. An accumulation of these particles can also create just the right conditions for insects and other pests to thrive. That’s why controlling these biological particles is essential to maintaining high indoor air quality.


To keep your workers breathing easy, it’s highly advised to keep the workplace as dry as possible by ventilating the air and promoting good hygiene practices with regular housekeeping. You should also regularly inspect and maintain HVAC systems to prevent bacteria buildup.


Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)


Volatile organic compounds are very reactive chemicals. When accidentally released, they can severely affect the indoor air quality and the workers’ health. Examples of these compounds are formaldehyde, benzene, and tetrachloroethylene. Other common household items like paints, thinners, lacquers, and markers can also exhume VOCs.


To control these compounds, installing sufficient ventilation, using these compounds according to manufacturer’s guidelines, and properly disposing of them according to the ISO 14000 environmental guidelines is highly advised.


Legionella


Legionella is a bacteria that thrives in stagnant or slow-moving, warm water basins. That’s why this bacteria is often found in cooling towers or evaporative condensers in commercial and industrial establishments. It becomes very risky if a fresh air supply fan is near the cooling tower or condenser area.


This bacterial infection is known as Legionnaire’s Disease which can cause lung failure and death.


Treating cooling towers and evaporative condensers with biocide can help control the spread of this lethal disease. Regular preventive maintenance is also highly recommended to prevent the buildup of any biological organisms.



How to Greatly Improve Indoor Air Quality?


To greatly improve indoor air quality, three methods can be used: source management, engineering controls, and administrative controls.


  1. Source Management
  2. This refers to controlling and removing source contaminants. For example, Legionella thrives on the basins of cooling towers. Since the source of the contaminant is the water basin, we can treat it with biocides to control the source of Legionella.


  3. Engineering Controls
  4. Engineering controls refer to designing and using mechanical equipment, such as fans and blowers, for ventilation. It also involves conducting tests and doing regular preventive maintenance to mitigate air contaminants.


  5. Adminsitrative Controls
  6. This involves making policies and guidelines to control air contaminants and includes making a regular housekeeping schedule and training workers about proper indoor air quality.


Indoor airborne pathogens caused by poor air quality

How a Digital Indoor Air Quality Assessment Can Save You Time


As stated in the article, indoor air quality, and ventilation is nothing to joke about. It may not seem like poor air quality can lead to death, but in extreme cases where proper ventilation and maintenance of ventilation systems are neglected, it’s a very real, very poignant possibility.


However, with the help of a digital checklist, you can strike this possibility off your list of things to worry about. Lumiform’s powerful and easy-to-use software allows you to assign quality inspections from anywhere at any time. It organizes your upcoming inspections based on their due dates and automatically generates a report of the collected data at its completion.


Want to know more about how Lumiform can benefit your business? Keep reading:


  • The super intuitive mobile app can be accessed online or offline whether your onsite or off it. This lets you keep track of your building’s indoor air quality even when you have business elsewhere.
  • Protect your brand’s reputation by making sure air quality inspections are done on time. If you or one of your employees notices any issues with the ventilation system, you can assign corrective action to a specific person via the app.
  • Lumiform automatically generates a report out of the data collected onsite, so you can get a real-time overview of pending and completed air quality assessments.
  • With the app, you can continuously optimize interal procedures. The Lumi flow allows app users to create new checklists, assign tasks, and freely communicate with colleagues about any hitch in the process.



A gray floor fan running to increase indoor airflow


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