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Sources for IAQ issues

Investigation of indoor air quality (IAQ) issues is not an easy task. Initially the investigation narrows the range of possible causes. Experience indicates seven major sources of indoor air quality issues:

Inadequate ventilation

These issues involve lack of adequate fresh air and uneven distribution of fresh air within a building causing complaints of stuffiness.

Humidity and temperature

These issues involve levels of these parameters being outside the normal comfort range causing discomfort for occupants.

Inside contamination

Copy machines, office products, and chemicals stored indoors have been identified as significant sources of indoor air issues in some investigations. Dry traps in floor drains can allow sewer odours to enter the building.

Outside contamination

This is caused by the re-entrainment of previously exhausted contaminants, generally caused by improper air intake placement or by periodic changes in the wind conditions. A common issue is vehicle exhaust fumes from parking areas, loading docks or idling vehicles being drawn into a building ventilation system.

Microbial contamination

This type of issue is usually associated with water leaks, steam leaks, water infiltration, elevated indoor humidity, humidifiers, and contaminated ventilation ductwork.

New building materials

This results from building materials (including carpeting) releasing gasses into the air during and shortly after the materials are first installed. Increased ventilation after installation will enhance the dissipation of these chemicals. Where possible, low emissions materials are specifically selected for USQ construction projects in order to limit these issues.

Personal factors

There are a variety of personal factors that may be related to personnel reporting reactions to IAQ. It may be that their symptoms are related to exposure to personal chemicals such as perfumes, deodorants, laundry detergent or, alternatively, common environmental agents such as pollen, animal hair/fur/skin, food items, etc. Given that the symptoms are only manifested at work can suggest that work related clothing or personal hygiene factors may be involved.