Overcoming Common IAQ Complaints

Today, the line between cleaning commercial building spaces and medical spaces is quickly disappearing. The introduction of Web-MD’s online Symptom Checker, and the overwhelming amount of information available via the internet has led to more building occupants educating themselves about medical conditions caused by human error or the building’s cleanliness. The last 10 years have seen a push where everyone is empowered to speak their mind, lawyers fill the airwaves with how they will take a patient or tenant’s case, and people spend just enough time on the internet to scare themselves into sickness.

Cleaning departments and custodial management professionals must be armed with education and tools to help answer concerns of building occupants.  Fortunately, there are tools that can help. For as much as common search engines can teach someone in 30 minutes, there are new instruments that can help investigators prove, disprove or even discover problematic conditions.

Odors And VOCs

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. The quality of the air inside a building is assumed to be normal until either an odor is introduced, or a group of occupants complain of sickness or ill feeling.

Poor IAQ is a much more common, and much more expensive, problem than many facility cleaning managers may realize. 

Certainly, common complaints during the spring and summer season are allergy-related problems among building occupants. Headaches, itchy eyes, sore throats and coughing are symptoms typically associated with particles emitting from heating and cooling systems.

Sampling the air for mold (fungi), which can commonly cause these symptoms, is simple and relatively inexpensive.  Taking an air sample and having it analyzed for mold can quickly aid in determining whether there is a problem in the space.

Musty odors can also be an indication of a clogged condensation pan that is overflowing onto building materials or insulation inside the ductwork. Sometimes the odor is from a leak, or even excessive humidity that has damaged building materials. Moisture meters and infrared cameras can pinpoint active leaks and save staff significant time.

To eliminate the odor, the source of the moisture needs to be identified and corrected. In some cases, specialized testing can find nothing wrong with the indoor environment. However, it is just as important to save this data and communicate the findings to the concerned occupants.

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Controlling Allergens That Lurk Within Facilities