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Indoor Air Quality Testing and Outdoor Sampling

Posted in Air Quality, on October 17, 2016

Every now and then we get calls from people (who did not hire us to perform indoor air quality testing) to review a report or obtain information from us regarding an air quality test performed by another consulting company. In some cases, the caller didn’t know about our air quality testing service, in other cases we spoke to them prior to them choosing another firm (usually due to cost), or the test was performed by their management company or corporate landlord.

We usually inform the caller that it is very difficult to draw any conclusions about their air quality test without having seen their property first hand.  A report, no matter how detailed it may be is no substitute for an actual site visit or air quality test.  We also inform the caller in most cases that we usually do not like relying on information from a third party due to a variety of reasons. 

The report does not necessarily show me that the indoor air quality test was performed fully and properly.  It does not show if the samples (in the case of laboratory samples) were somehow mishandled or cross contaminated and it does not necessarily provide calibration information, equipment set up, etc.  In short, we usually recommend that we perform our own independent indoor air quality test.

Lately, we have seen more and more inspection reports without an ambient or outdoor sampling area.  In other words, the indoor air quality test was performed without outdoor sampling.  An outdoor sample is extremely important!  It serves as a comparison or baseline for all of the air quality parameters that are being analyzed.  An outdoor sample shows us what the environmental conditions were on the day the indoor air quality test was performed.  Without it, it becomes difficult to determine if elevated indoor levels are due to a building issue or normal conditions due to outdoor pollutants.

We also get clients that sometimes argue that they do not want the outdoor sampling performed since they don’t want to pay to test the outside air…they are more concerned with what is happening indoors.  This may be a valid thought pattern, but is not good science. If the outdoor environment has elevated VOC’s or chemical off gassing, then it stand to reason that the indoor environment may have elevated VOC levels as well.  Natural ventilation of the building envelope, pressure differentials, opening doors and windows and mechanical ventilation equipment all can cause the outside air enter to the indoor environment.  If it didn’t we wouldn’t have any oxygen to breathe! So if outdoor mould spore levels, airborne particulates or dust, and any other possible pollutant is elevated, then the indoor air quality will automatically be affected.  For this reason and outdoor sample must be taken.

Air quality testing or air quality environmental assessment reports that do not show an ambient or outdoor reading are virtually useless. So the question then is why?  Why do some consultants miss this important step? There are several possible reasons.  Most of them begin and end with inexperience or lack of training. Call us today.  We can help you with your indoor air quality testing needs.  And we always do an outdoor sample.

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