Temperature perceptions (too hot, too cold, drafts, etc.) are the number one source of building occupant air quality complaints. Relative humidity (RH) levels are often overlooked but are a significant factor in maintaining employee health, reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity in commercial buildings. Consensus thermal comfort guidelines have been developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) in conjunction with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and are published in the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 55-1992, “Thermal Environmental Conditions for Human Occupancy.” ANSI/ASHRAE recommends that indoor RH levels not exceed 60% (as prolonged humidity levels above 60% may cause molds, spores and fungi to propagate), and defines the summertime Operative Temperature range as between 73°F and 79°F. ANSI/ASHRAE recommends that the wintertime indoor temperature be maintained between 68°F and 75°F with a minimum RH level of 30% (as humidity levels below this range may cause drying of the nose, eyes and throat and may also cause dry, itchy skin).
Carbon dioxide (CO2)at very high concentrations (e.g. greater than 5000 ppm) can pose a health risk, according to ASHRAE Standard 62.1-2010, "Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality". However, in most buildings, concentrations almost never rise to these levels. CO2 at the concentrations commonly found in buildings is not a direct health risk, but CO2 concentrations can be used as an indicator air quality. An indicator of inadequate fresh air or insufficient dilution of air contaminants. carbon dioxide in excessive amounts is an asphyxiant.
Carbon monoxide (CO) usually originates from outside the building from such sources as automotive traffic and loading docks. Internal sources include cigarette smoke, boilers and furnaces. Assuming internal sources are limited, monitoring for carbon monoxide is a useful surrogate for determining if outside air intakes are being impacted by automotive traffic. The EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for carbon monoxide is generally accepted as indoor air quality criteria. Carbon Monoxide displaces oxygen and individuals can mistake symptoms for the common cold or flu. As exposure continues, individuals will experience, dizziness, nausea, rapid breathing, or faint and mental confusion. Sources may include poorly vented gas fired water heaters, poorly sealed wood burning stoves, insufficient replacement air around gas or wood fireplaces, space heaters, and vehicle exhaust from garage into buildings.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) include a wide variety of organic compounds, which may exist in the vapor phase at room temperature or bound to airborne particles. There are various potential origins such as perfumes, cleaning solutions, infiltration from outdoor air, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, bacterial and fungal activities and product emissions. Products with the highest amounts of VOC emissions include: paints, fabrics and treatments, foam or stuffed cushions, plastics, adhesives, cleaning solvents, carpets and floorings. Other building material with high levels of VOC emissions arefurniture spray polishes, wood stains, plywood, particle board, fiberboard, and hardwoods.
Formaldehyde (HCHO) is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects such as irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, coughing, eczema, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, fatigue, possibly thirstiness, diarrhea, and memory loss. More severe exposure can lead to asthma attacks, nausea, vomiting, headaches, nose bleeds. Formaldehyde is found in resins used in the manufacture of composite wood products (i.e., hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium-density fiberboard); cabinetry and paneling, building materials and insulation; laminates, household products such as glues, permanent press fabrics, paints and coatings, lacquers and finishes,carpets and carpet backings, paper products, plastics, preservatives used in some medicines, cosmetics and other consumer products such as dish washing liquids and fabric softeners; and fertilizers and pesticides. It is also a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and found in emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters, and cigarette smoke.
Allergens can consist of many small particles of building materials which include fiberglass, fibers from textiles, minerals, wood; plant parts, animal parts dander, skin cells, animal or human hairs, silicates,ash, metal fumes, pharmacuticals, and soil. Allergens or dust particulates can cause allergy like symptoms, lung irritations or even long term health effects (e.g. asbestos dust).
Radon in air is ubiquitous." Radon is found in outdoor air and in the indoor air of buildings of all kinds. EPA recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more.EPA estimates that about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. are radon-related. Exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon is an odorless, tasteless and invisible gas produced by the decay of naturally occurring uranium in soil and water. Radon is a form of ionizing radiation and a proven carcinogen. Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air. Do not presume that because the action level is 4 pCi/L, a radon level of less than 4 pCi/L is "safe". This perception is altogether too common in the residential real estate market. In managing any risk, we should be concerned with the greatest risk. The greatest exposure to radon is in our homes; especially in rooms that are below grade (e.g., basements), rooms that are in contact with the ground and those rooms immediately above them" ( http://www.epa.gov/radon/aboutus.html).
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