Our understanding of how particulate matter affects indoor air quality and the well-being of occupants has improved in recent years. This has made issues of IAQ a concern for facilities managers and building owners.
Better ways of tracking and interpreting health trends and more streamlined data collection has made it easier to identify the threats posed by particulate matter and poor IAQ. Improved HVAC monitoring systems have contributed to this understanding how microbial communities respond to environmental conditions and impact our health.
While it may not be possible to eliminate all particles from entering or forming in the built environment, recent advancements in limiting them are encouraging.
Understanding Particulate Matter
Particulate matter (PM) is a mix of solid particles and drops of liquid that travel through the air. Dust and dirt are particles that we can observe along with smoke and soot. However, other particles are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Particulates can also contain different chemicals that get released during construction or from unpaved roads located close to buildings. Some are created from cars and power plants while others originate indoors from cigarette smoke and unvented heaters, furnaces, and stoves.
Particulate matter can be composed of allergens such as dead skin flakes, mold spores, and insect proteins. These collect in dust and circulate throughout the building as they become unsettled by everyday work activity.
Indoor PM levels are affected by outdoor levels as well as the type of filtration and ventilation systems in operation throughout the building. Knowing the source of PMs helps us identify them and reduce their presence.
Particulate Matter and Our Health
When particulate matter enters the built environment, they can cause a range of health issues, some with serious consequences. They negatively impact the health of the building itself causing what is known as Sick Building Syndrome. SBS causes fatigue and allergy-like symptoms in building occupants. This leads to lowered worker productivity and loss of revenue.
When PM get brought deep into the lungs or enter the bloodstream, they can cause problems in the respiratory and circulatory systems. For those who already have heart or lung conditions, the risk posed my particulate matter is greatly increased. Children and the elderly are also at a higher risk. Signs of exposure include irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. Prolonged exposure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, respiratory infections, and lung cancer.
Reducing Indoor PM Levels
Understanding the relationship between PMs and IAQ helps building managers and engineers operate their HVAC systems in a way that limits exposure to indoor particulate matter. There are other steps that can be taken as well, including the following.
- Installing outdoor venting on all fuel-fired combustion appliances and avoiding the use of unvented space heaters.
- Scheduling Pure Air Control’s HVAC Hygiene Assessment to test for bypass, leaks, and gauge efficiency, pressure, and air tightness.
- Conducting a Building Health Check which includes particle mass concentrations PM 2.5 and PM 10.0, temperature and humidity logging, mold assessments, and moisture testing.
- Regular professional inspections, cleaning, and tune-ups HVAC systems.
- Changing filters on HVAC systems and air cleaners as instructed by the manufacturer.
- Continuous, real-time monitoring of PM 2.5 and PM 10.0 with Pure Air Control’s IAQ Guard
- Educating facilities managers and staff on ways to limit the risk of particulate matter both indoors and out.
We Can Help
Contact Pure Air Control Services today with questions about how we use outdoor and indoor PM data to monitor IAQ levels. We perform Building Health Checks, HVAC Hygiene Assessments and specific particulate matter investigations with ongoing, real-time, monitoring with our IAQ Guard program. Call 1-800-422-7873 or email us here.