by Sydney Harris
Industrial Hygienist

With the onset of pollen season, what better time to discuss indoor air quality? As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality (IAQ) is the air quality, specifically as it relates to the health and comfort of occupants, within and around buildings and structures. COVID-19 has increased the population’s general awareness and importance of IAQ as well as the transmission of infectious diseases. The EPA recently released a Clean Air in Buildings Challenge as part of the Federal government’s new IAQ initiative, which happens to also be a facet of the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge is a call to action and set of guiding principles that assist building owners and operators and provides tools to reduce the risk for airborne viruses and other contaminants indoors. On average, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors, where the concentrations of pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoors. Yes, you read that correctly. Two to five times higher! Typical pollutants of concern include biological agents (i.e., mold), lead, asbestos, combustion byproducts, volatile organic compounds, and more.

Indoor air is recirculated and relies on ventilation and filtration to reduce the concentration of harmful particles. The importance of IAQ on health and comfort is invaluable, especially considering people spend a majority of their time indoors. Indoor air pollutants have the potential to be associated with health effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches, dizziness, and fatigue; and respiratory diseases such as heart disease and cancer.

The Clean Air in Buildings Challenge provides specific actions to improve IAQ and reduce the risk of exposure to particles, aerosols, and other contaminants. This strategic initiative includes the following four tiers:

1) Create an action plan;
2) Optimize fresh air ventilation;
3) Enhance air filtration and cleaning; and
4) Get your community engaged.

A combination of actions included underneath each tier will vary based on a variety of factors such as building space and location, occupancy number, activities, outdoor air quality, and more. It is important to therefore to consult with experts, facilities managers, and others. Please refer to the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge document for specific action items that you can start taking today to invest in indoor air quality.

To help those interested in showing their commitment to the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,The EI Group employs qualified personnel to provide comprehensive, full spectrum, indoor air quality services from building screening and air testing to litigation support.

EI also provides the following:

Baseline Building Air Quality Assessments
LEED EQ 3.2 Credit Testing and Analysis
IAQ Management Plans
Comprehensive Airborne Contaminant Monitoring
“Problem Building” Investigations
Employee Surveys and Communications
Mold and Moisture Intrusion Investigation and Remediation
Work Plans and Remediation Protocols
Ventilation Assessments

For more information regarding IAQ and ventilation, please do not hesitate to contact EI Industrial Hygienist, Sydney Harris, at (919) 280-4855 or [email protected]