Is the indoor environment making you sick?
by Dr. Rajiv Sahay, CIAQP, FIAS, Director of Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and the health of the indoor environment has been a rising concern in recent years from the health, hygiene, and productivity viewpoints. Individuals are exposed to a number of allergens or contaminants on a continuous basis. These contaminates/allergens can cause various ailments, allergies, and diseases. Allergens are antigens that produce an altered and accelerated reaction in susceptible individuals. Mainly exposure happens due to inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact with the allergen. How our bodies respond to these allergens is what defines our immunity to the antigens. It is the immune systems job to recognize and alleviate these antigens before they activate and cause harm. Immunity varies from individual to individual. The symptom can appear in a susceptible individual depending on the immune response, genetic factors, and other environmental conditions. Factors such as age, immunocompromised status, and previous exposure to the same elements influence the body’s ability to deal with the foreign contaminants.
Some of the commonly and frequently reported allergens in the indoor environment include various particulates, pollen grains, mold spores, fibers, dust-mite and other plant and animal borne materials. It has been observed that biologically originated entities proliferate in closed environments depending upon the ability of food material (organic compounds), temperature, relative humidity, and other factors such as availability of light etc. However, intrusion of allergens into the home or workplace often comes from the outdoor environment. Proper identification and quantification is necessary to properly address the allergen/contaminant related issues that affect indoor environments.
In absence of a universally accepted practice to assess the indoor environment, a few basic approaches are beneficial for enhancing indoor environmental quality by preventing and/or managing indoor contaminants/allergens. It is encouraged to properly manage building ventilation, relative humidity and temperature under the threshold (30-60% and 68-79°F, respectively). It is also worth mentioning that smoking inside, off-gassing from household appliances/furniture and other stationaries may adversely affect indoor environmental quality. Consider testing your indoor environment with do-it-yourself test kits for an initial screening. If the outcome of that testing is positive, then a more comprehensive building health evaluation for occupancy needs to be undertaken on periodical basis. For maintaining a good environmental air quality, smart air purification devices can be used after proper remediation is completed.
For more information on IEQ and Building Evaluations please call Alan Wozniak, President/CEO Pure Air Control Services, Inc. at 1-800-422-7873 extension 802.
For more information on EDLab at Pure Air Control Services, Inc. please contact Dr. Rajiv Sahay at 1-800-422-7873 extension 304, or visit edlab.org
Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab):
The Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory (EDLab) (established in 1992) at Pure Air Control Services (PACS) is an environmental lab offering complete and comprehensive indoor environmental microbiology laboratory services. They include: microbiology, aerobiology, chemistry, allergen assays and microscopy designed to meet all your indoor air needs. EDLab supports IAQ investigations by assisting with strategic sampling plan development and supplying media collection equipment while performing a wide range of environmental analyses.