Do you suffer from one or more of the following symptoms when you are at work: headaches, lethargy, coughing, sneezing, itchy skin, throat, eyes and nose, skin rashes, increased frequency of sinus and asthma attacks? Do you experience these symptoms only at work? Do they disappear after leaving the building? Then the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in your workplace may be causing you to be sick.
On average people spend about 90% of their time indoors. International studies have found that indoor air pollutantsare generally two to five times greater than outdoor pollution levels.
You are more likely to get sick from pollution in your home and office than from pollution in the air outside. In fact the American College of Allergists has found that 50% of all illnesses are caused by indoor air pollution.
What is Indoor Air Quality?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines IAQ as the temperature, humidity, ventilation and chemical or biological contaminants of the air inside a building. IAQ refers to the quality of the air inside buildings as represented by concentrations of pollutants and thermal (temperature and relative humidity) conditions that affect the health, comfort and performance of occupants. The growing proliferation of chemical pollutants in consumer and commercial products, the tendency toward tighter building envelopes and reduced ventilation to save energy, and pressures to defer maintenance and other building services to reduce costs may foster IAQ problems.
How do you know if the indoor air quality in your workplace is poor?
Poor indoor air quality in buildings is usually characterized by complaints by 20% or more of occupants of various symptoms that occur for more than two (2) weeks, and who experience rapid relief after leaving the building.
What are the causes of poor indoor air quality?
Poor indoor air quality can be caused by numerous factors some of which are:
- Poor ventilation due to improper airflow and continuous re-circulation of the indoor air. This is usually evidenced by the feeling of sleepiness and lethargy particularly in the afternoon and usually occurs in buildings with split air-conditioning units only.
- Lack of adequate air filtration of the circulated air. This is usually evidenced by materials coming through supply vents in offices and is caused by the absence of air filters on air-conditioning equipment.
- Poorly maintained air-conditioning systems are frequent sources of biological substances that can be inhaled, leading to breathing problems. Such systems are usually evidenced by water collecting on ceiling tiles due to condensation on the ducting, water collecting in drain pans, dirty air filters and the occurrence of a musty odor. Mold growth may be occurring if the ceiling tile turns black. White growth on furniture may also be mold particularly if there is a temperature and relative humidity problem in a building.
- The improper use of cleaning chemicals, freshly painted walls, new furniture and activities such as construction works can also lead to indoor air quality problems.
What symptoms are often linked to poor indoor air quality?
What can be done to improve the indoor air quality in office buildings?
Attendance to the challenges of IAQ should be done on a systematic basis. Too often ad hoc responses are the order of the day. By introducing outdoor air into buildings, specifically, air that is properly filtered and cooled before it is mixed with circulated air this can improve conditions. For places like Port of Spain, a closing mechanism should be installed on outdoor air intakes which prevent smoke and odors from fires, from entering the building.
Companies can also try the installation of air filters with a Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) of eight on air conditioning unit’s results in proper filtration which can remove many contaminants that can cause people to become sick.
Lastly, do not conduct vapor/gas and dust releasing activities such as painting, duct-cleaning, sanding etc. when buildings are occupied. These activities should be done when the building is vacant to allow the entire premises to be properly ventilated afterwards.
What should you do if you think the indoor air quality in your building is poor?
Persons who suspect their building has poor IAQ can start by following the above steps. Additional measures include ventilating the building by opening windows and doors once the building is located away from major vehicular traffic and any other potential gas and dust releasing activity and conducting an indoor air quality assessment. IAQ assessments should be conducted once every year as part of an annual risk assessment or when major changes to the buildings layout and processes occur.
Why should I conduct an indoor air quality Assessment?
Understanding and controlling common indoor pollutants can help reduce your risk of indoor health concerns. Air sampling can help with this by determining the quality of the indoor air through monitoring for a range of pollutants and comparing them to acceptable limits set by reputable organizations. An indoor air quality assessment predominantly includes testing for gases, dust and mold.
Why should I use CARIRI’s IAQ services?
CARIRI has positioned itself as a premier technology Institute based on service quality. Quality is a hallmark of the services provided to clients in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and extra regional markets. As part of its commitment to providing the highest quality services, CARIRI has established several quality management systems that work together to maintain the Institute’s overall high quality standards such as:
In1999,CARIRI received ISO 9001 Certification and became the first laboratory- based Institute in the region to be ISO Certified. The Registrar for CARIRI’s ISO 9001 Certification is Société Généralede Surveillance – International Certification Services(SGS.ICS). Each year surveillance visits areconducted as part of the certification programme.
In 1998,the Institute’s laboratories received international accreditation under the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and became the first laboratory in the region to receive such a ccreditation. Three years later, in 2001, the Institute received ISO17025 Certification. This was a major achievement, being the first organization outside of Europe to receive such certification. CARIRI has changed its ISO 17025 Certification body to the International Accreditation Service(IAS)of the United States.
Along with our other quality certifications, CARIRI is also STOW certified.
CARIRI also has a multi-disciplinary team with extensive experience and a wide range of skills to meet the needs of the client. The team is headed by an Environmental Specialist who is supported by a cadre of professional and technical staff that are Council-Certified Environmental Consultants accredited by the American Council of Accredited Certification (ACAC) and the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards (CESB) which is the most prestigious certification specific to Indoor Air Quality.
Some of the services offered by CARIRI in the area of Indoor Air Quality include but are not limited to:
- IAQ Testing & assessments
- Ventilation systems inspections
- Microbial IAQ testing
- Noise surveys
- Occupational health risk assessment
- Sick building syndrome surveys
Contact CARIRI’s AQMS department today to help you “Clear the Air.”
Air Quality Management Services (AQMS)
Trincity West Industrial Estate,
Tel: (868) 285-5050 ext. 3300